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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rural adult popular education performatively inquiring into psychiatric experiences Noble, Steven Edward


Problem: Psychiatrically diagnosed people living in rural Canada are often silenced or rendered invisible. Therefore, the purposes of this study were to: (i) disrupt “normal” ways of thinking about psychiatric diversity and (ii) create better relationships between psychiatric survivors and other people. These aims were achieved by staging a popular theatre production in a chicken barn. Conceptual Approach: This study was located in a radical humanist framing of critical adult education and social relations. Radical humanism foregrounds human subjectivity and is committed to social change. The conceptual framework supporting the study was arrayed as a pyramid. Radical humanism envelops the structure. At the base, were insights drawn from critical disability studies and rural sociology. The second tier pulled from critical pedagogy and popular adult education. Performativity sits on the third level. Popular theatre processes stepped the pyramid to the next level and the top is comprised of Existentialism and absurdist theatre forms. Methodology: The methodology consisted of a performative inquiry that involved the staging of, and learning within, an absurdist popular theatre production. Instead of an “ideal” polished performance, with elaborate staging, a “rough” performance evoked questions, provoked meanings and generated new examinations. The research involved six stages - group formation, theatre “training,” performance development, presentation, post-production and social action. Results/Conclusions: i) Cast members appeared to become more autonomous, were focused on a task for an extended period, and reported encountering a more authentic (less psychiatrically constructed) view of self. They also became attuned to ways other individuals negotiate experiences within their lives. ii) Spectators generalized similarities and contradictions evoked by the play to other life-settings. iii) The author scrutinized his shifts in awareness as both facilitator and co-searcher. It was concluded that the disparity in understanding of what it means to be psychiatrically diagnosed by others in society remains deep; theatre offers an opportunity to interrupt this discrimination. Through the interactive popular performance experience, there was a lessening of fears and stereotyping that plague individuals labeled as “mentally ill.” This shift in the relationship between psychiatric survivors and others created an opening for group members to reconnect to local society as citizens.

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