Social and education researchers are doing innovative work using arts-based methods to explore gender and identity with young people within a feminist new materialist theoretical framing to a/effect change. Emma Renold and Anna Hickey-Moody are two key scholars in this field whose work inspires and informs my doctoral research. I am interested in how Renold and Hickey-Moody use arts-based methods as a way of opening up the space of enquiry beyond binaries and stereotypes in playful ways that has the potential to both affect and effect change in the wider community and policy space. I aim to explore how this approach can be applied to using filmmaking as an arts-based method with young people to trace everyday experiences and understandings of gender in secondary schooling in Australia.
For Emma Renold, using creative methods in a feminist new materialist framing supports an open, fluid and speculative approach that allows space for things to emerge in relation to each other; to intra-act (Barad, 2007, p. 393-394) without the restrictions of preconceived boundaries or prescribed connections - what Renold terms runaway methodologies (Renold, 2019, p. 116). As I explored in Material Synergies, filmmaking doesn’t always lend itself to emergence. To create space for an open and responsive process, I plan to use accessible and intuitive equipment for shooting and editing, such as iPads, so that students can literally pick up and shoot without training.
In researching with young people around gender in schools, developing a methodology that is ethical, sensitive and fun is crucial. For Hickey-Moody, collaborative art making is “a way of knowing about communities by being with communities in playful, fun and non-intrusive ways” (Hickey-Moody, 2019, p. 18). Renold sees arts methods as a more ethical way to explore sensitive topics with young people, that may be difficult to articulate through words, or directly in discussion (Renold, 2017).
A key aim of my research is to explore how filmmaking can be used as a participatory arts method to trace affective experiences and understandings of gender in secondary schooling. A further aim is to explore how the process of filmmaking and the film/media artefacts created can prompt change. Both Hickey-Moody and Renold’s work demonstrate the ability of arts methods to offer unique understandings and a/effect change. For Hickey-Moody collaborative arts making as method “accesses past times and spaces and envisions future times and spaces in ways that other research methods cannot” (Hickey-Moody, 2018, p. 2). Hickey-Moody’s affective pedagogy sees art making as a way of thinking through sensation: “a process of making material mixtures or assemblages that affect thought through modulating the body and its emotions” that can in turn affect a viewer prompting them to re-think existing understandings. (Hickey-Moody, 2013, p. 85-87).
Video: "Love your life" animation created by children as part of the Interfaith Childhoods project
Hickey-Moody’s Interfaith Childhoods project uses collaborative art making with children to express and celebrate cultural and religious identity and belonging. Collaborative drawings of imagined future cities and individual drawings of belonging express ‘what matters’ through complex assemblages of human and non-human elements that intra-act within and across faith and cultural communities. The children’s artworks are in turn used as prompts for discussion with parents that “[encourage] a diffraction of difference as ‘togetherness’ by creating interfaith understandings” (Hickey-Moody, 2019, p.4).
Renold also sees affect as a key to the change-making potential of using creative methods, describing art making as transforming individual experiences into material embodiments of collective feelings and knowings. Artefacts, or ‘da(r)ta’, when activated as d/artiphacts, intra-act with audiences, connecting affectively to make change (Renold, 2018 p.47-50). Renold calls this intra-activism, highlighting her thinking that “change and transformation is always in process, always unpredictable and always a matter of entanglement (the ‘intra’ of intra-activism’ in explicitly political ways (shifting ‘action’ to ‘activism’” (Renold, 2018, p.40). Renold’s work in gender and sexualities education in Wales with AGENDA has been instrumental in demonstrating how open collaborative creative processes with young people have the potential to make policy change.
Image: Graffitied ruler-skirt d/artaphact. Source: AGENDA Resource
The graffitied ruler-skirt is a good example of this. Working with a group of girls, Renold describes how “a throw-away comment by one of the girls: ‘boys lift up girls skirts with rulers’” led to “an explosion of ruler-talk”: how rulers are used to assault and shame, how feelings are 'ruled out’, and how gender norms ‘rule’ who and how you can be. Ruler talk led to ruler graffiti with abusive slurs and messages for change inscribed on rulers. Joined together, they became a ruler-skirt that has travelled to policy and political forums “demand[ing] to be heard, seen and touched” and helping to change the rules in education policy in Wales (Renold, 2019, p. 116-120).
Hickey-Moody and Renold’s work are significant in shaping my thinking about how filmmaking can be used as an arts-based method in my research. Working within a feminist new materialist framing, arts-based methods offer a playful and ethical process that can reveal unique knowings and envision futures that have the potential to a/effect change to existing understandings and policies. My aim is to use filmmaking in this framework to trace young people’s experiences of gender in secondary school and bring new understandings that have the potential to change gender equity policy in education in Australia.
1. My doctoral research sits within the Gender Matters ARC Discovery project led by Associate Professor Susanne Gannon and Professor Kerry Robinson at Western Sydney University. Read more about the project in my Research Profile.
2. For more on feminist new materialism see Material synergies post.
Barad, Karen. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.
Hickey-Moody, Anna. (2013). Affect as method: affective pedagogy In Rebecca Coleman & Jessica Ringrose (Eds.), Deleuze and research methodologies (pp. 79-95). Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.
Hickey-Moody, Anna. (2018). New Materialism, Ethnography, and Socially Engaged Practice: Space-Time Folds and the Agency of Matter. Qualitative Inquiry. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800418810728
Hickey-Moody, Anna. (2019). Entanglements of difference as community togetherness: faith, art and feminism. The Social Sciences, 8(9), 264. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/socsci8090264
Renold, Emma (2017). Researching Sensitive Topics Using Creative Methods. Sage Research Methods. Retrieved from https://methods.sagepub.com/video/researching-sensitive-topics-using-creative-methods
Renold, Emma. (2018). ‘Feel what I feel’: making da(r)ta with teen girls for creative activisms on how sexual violence matters. Journal of Gender Studies, 27(1), 37-55. DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2017.1296352
Renold, Emma. (2019). Ruler-skirt risings: being crafty with how gender and sexuality education research-activisms can come to matter. In Tiffany Jones, Leanne Coll, Lisa van Leent, & Yvette Taylor (Eds.), Uplifting gender and sexuality education research. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uwsau/detail.action?docID=5847414
My thinking about filmmaking as an affective, emergent mode of inquiry to explore experiences of gender in secondary school with young people through doctoral research.