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1.2.2: Arts and Social Media for Development
Monday, 31/May/2021:
12:30pm - 2:00pm

Session Chair: Furqan Asif
Technical chair: Furqan Asif
Location: Room 2

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Picturing our Realities: Arts-based reflections from Central American youth living in Canada

Juan Carlos Jimenez

University of Toronto - St. George

This presentation will discuss a community-based research (CBR) project in Toronto, Canada, led by young researchers from the Central American Diaspora, entitled “Picturing Our Realties”, which explores the experiences of Central American youth identified as 1.5 and second-generation immigrants growing up in Canada and navigating legacies of trauma, socio-economic barriers, and racism. Through an art-based method of investigation called Photovoice, participants engaged in self-led data collection and reflection by exploring their experiences and realities through photographs and writing. These art-pieces provided an analysis of their social positions and feelings, and how young people chose to represent themselves and their realities. The research team engaged in positionality by creating Digital Stories, an arts-based practice where participants make a video collage with an accompanying narrative that relates a self-reflection of an author’s personal story, a technique meant to stimulate reflection and insights into one’s own history.

Using the Photovoice narratives of a total of eight participants, the study indicated that youth struggled with the lasting emotional and psychological scars left by the experience of violence and the sudden migratory experiences of the generations that came before them. The youth shared the emotional consequences of being 1.5 and second-generation Central American migrants fleeing war and how the circumstances shaped the trajectories of their lives, goals, well-being, and ideas of success. Other themes identified include the socio-economic barriers present in youth’s lives, discrimination in the school system, precarious status, and the importance of community in providing needed systems of support. Finally, the presentation will discuss the benefits of Photovoice and Digital Storytelling as a tool to engage youth and the opportunity it presented to youth for self-reflection, positioning them as the experts of their realities, and stimulating critical reflection of positionality on the part of researchers.

Tweeting the Pandemic: Exploring environmental charity responses to the COVID-19 and climate crises

Hannah Ascough

Queen's University, Canada

In this paper, I argue that the theories of ubuntu, social ecofeminism, and post-development can be harnessed as tools to understand the impact of COVID-19 on large-scale international environmental charities (ENGOs), and their conceptions of “environmental development”.

The similarities between climate change and COVID-19 – in how both affect marginalized groups and threaten notions of hegemonic growth – also offer an opportunity to imagine a radically different future based on just transitions from capitalism into social, economic and environmental equality. Large, international ENGOs tend to shape development efforts to combat climate change; it is thus important to understand how these charities responded to the pandemic, and what that response means for global environmental development strategies.

In the first part of my paper, I explain my theoretical framework, rooted in a decolonial lens and created to analyze discursive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This framework draws on three intersecting theories: the African worldview of ubuntu, social ecofeminism, and post-development. Ubuntu’s holistic, communitarian values have deep implications for alternatives to capitalism; likewise, social ecofeminism deconstructs capitalist exploitation and oppression, while post-development theory critiques the colonial nature of development itself.

The second part of my paper applies this framework to “tweets” from a sampling of international ENGOs that refer specifically to the COVID-19 and climate crises. This analysis highlights the efficacy of the framework in deconstructing environmental “development” efforts; it examines whether large-scale charities used COVID-19 to envision an equitable and just transition, or if these ENGOs promoted colonial, hegemonic development paradigms as a means for a post-pandemic recovery.

Ultimately, my paper presents a cohesive, decolonial framework for understanding the global, environmental development response to the pandemic, and overall, seeks to provide insight into global environmental development relationships as they have been impacted by the pandemic.

Theatre for Development: Access in a Time of Pandemic

Telisa Courtney1, John Battye1, Hussein Madden2, Raphael Mahulo3, Desai Ogada4, Sheilah Onguo4, William Okumu5

1University of Alberta, Canada; 2Rafiki Theatre, Uganda; 3Ignite Afrika Trust, Kenya; 4Lagnet Theatrix, Kenya; 5LazerArts Ensemble, Kenya

In an age of communication and technological expansion, it is important to remember that this progress is not equally accessible. Development relies on grassroots, community-driven, on-the-ground work to reach the most marginalized. One of the ways this is accomplished is through the arts. Art has the power to facilitate important conversations, build community strength, and encourage participation and self-advocacy. In Kenya and Uganda there are several Theatre for Development groups working with and for their communities for these important goals.

These groups rely on funding from NGOs and other finance bodies. Because they work within their own communities and in other marginalized places that cannot afford to pay them , this has created a cycle of dependency on funding that is hard to escape. When that support withdraws, or is withdrawn due to crisis, what happens to this important work?

With this in mind, we engage in conversation with theatre artists from Uganda and Kenya who work in grassroots development, theatre for education, and cross-border development. Questions of access to support, technology, and the changes that occurred to their operations when COVID-19 lockdowns began will be investigated.

A reality of the international political and economic system, dependency has been created for this necessary and community-driven work. With the Global North retreating into protectionism and increasingly adopting austerity measures, resulting from both COVID and the rise in right-wing populism and global recession, the Global South is being left behind.

We ask whose needs are being met and confront the reality of how the expanse of technology, the rapid adjustment of organizations moving online, and governmental responses all failed these on-the-ground artists. We finish by celebrating the work still being done. Despite these challenges, TfD artists are persevering in their goals, adapting as best they can to the uncertainty and instability.

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