Download the full-sized PDF of Becoming artivists: Artivist Inter-Actions Toward Creative Re-ExistenceDownload the full-sized PDF



Permanent link (DOI):


Export to: EndNote  |  Zotero  |  Mendeley


This file is in the following communities:

Graduate Studies and Research, Faculty of


This file is in the following collections:

Theses and Dissertations

Becoming artivists: Artivist Inter-Actions Toward Creative Re-Existence Open Access


Other title
community engaged creative research
critical/creative pedagogy
artivists 4 life
decolonial futures
particatory research
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Robinson, Leslie L
Supervisor and department
Wallin, Jason (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Donald, Dwayne (Secondary Education)
Smith, David G. (Secondary Education)
Ibrahim, Awad (Education)
Kirova, Anna (Elementary Education
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Artivism is a creative and youthful way of being, doing and seeing in the world that hinges on an explicit commitment to intervening in personal/collective circumstances toward change. Artivists respond to injustices by engaging any, and often multiple, artistic means in a shared effort to ‘create for a better world’. But what are the challenges of belonging to a community of artivists while also seeking to become part of an academic community? What does it mean to be an artivist in a context premised on individual achievement and dominated by textual modes of expression? And how might artivism be enhanced by the kind of deep and sustained reflection made possible by the privilege of academic study? This dissertation aims to create a conceptual inter-space for the coming together of two worlds apart: artivism and academia. I address two main questions: (1) how can artivism mobilize and legitimize under-represented youth responses to the asymmetrical global conditions that shape our everyday lives? And, (2) how can artivist modes of inter-action and expression offer new responses to the asymmetrical global conditions that shape University life? When I began my doctoral degree I had recently completed co-research with youth in Uganda. We co-designed a series of community murals in response to youth identified concerns including HIV/AIDS and prostitution. I became part of artivists 4 life, a group interested in creating a sustainable space of resistance, and as it turns out, our work is never finished. I was thus driven to pursue a doctoral degree through a desire to continue supporting the collective’s shared efforts of “creating for a better world” (artivists 4 life motto). Yet, through my experiences as a doctoral student I began observing many barriers to engaging in artistic, youth-driven co-research situated in Africa. Through the observation that certain knowledges and ways of knowing are undermined in the academy, my initial objective of doing co-research with artivits 4 life was no longer enough. I became obligated to simultaneously re-politicize creative co-research to respond more adequately to the conditions of global coloniality and the unequal power relations it manifests in the academy—across knowledge systems, race, culture, class, gender and other differences. This co-research is guided by the understanding that modernity is co-constituted by a colonial logic that serves to divide human beings and societies into ‘less-than’ and ‘more-than’ derivatives through the subjugation of knowledges and subjectivities in relation to their proximity to the hetero-Euro-centric norm. For decolonial thinkers, hope for an egalitarian pluriversal society lies in the struggles of the marginalized, the acceptance of their agency, and the willingness to be guided by their perspectives. Each piece of this dissertation embodies an artivist consciousness that allows for constant re-adaptation to the broader questions of decolonial struggle that shape the realities of those with whom I collaborate. Circumstances addressed include youth unemployment, sexual exploitation, epistemic racism and the increasing corporatization of academia, particularly as these precarious conditions impact upon members of artivists 4 life, myself inclusive. Artivist inter-actions engage multiple forms of enunciation in the making of murals, comics, performances, creative writing, and any other creative means necessary to break from the pervasive wiring of global coloniality and the wounds it inflicts upon us. These interventions work to re-conceptualize aesthetics, authorship and knowledge creation/dissemination in order to shift power. Throughout this dissertation fixed relations prescribed by modernity/coloniality—including the researcher-researched and the student-teacher—are re-imagined through the reconnection of creative practices to collective action. Through creative research with Ugandan youth and in one instance with fellow graduate students, I engaged with communities to unveil the mechanisms that sustain asymmetrical relations produced by modernity/coloniality in the places We/I dwell. Focusing on the structures of societal control serve to open new imaginaries for transcending power differentials by moving away from cultural mimicry toward the co-creation of new social formations not yet in existence. Emergent artivist epistemes and actions for such transformation require adjacent spaces to the academic project in order to support the co-creation of more adequate modes of inter-human contact premised on community self-determination. Overall, this dissertation enacts tactics for undoing disciplinary norms and other intellectually colonizing tendencies by allowing creative reflection/artistic action to flourish through an ethical commitment to making visible the invisible.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
Citation for previous publication
Robinson, L. (2015). Toward experiencing academic mentorship. Phenomenology & Practice, 9(41), 17–40.Artivists 4 life, Robinson, L., Cambre, M.-C. (2015). Youth artivism in Uganda: Co-creators of our own becoming. In P. Ugor, & L. Mawuko-Yevugah (Eds.), African youth culture in a globalized world: Challenges, agency and resistance (pp. 75–94). London: Ashgate.Robinson, L., Mashakalugo, C., Obol, A. J., Cambre, C. (2015). Phenomenological passports: Youth experiences of place, mobility and globalization. In S. Poyntz, & J. Kennelly (Eds.), Phenomenology of youth cultures and globalization: Lifeworlds and surplus meanings in changing times (pp. 154–179). Oxford: Routledge.Artivists 4 life, Robinson, L., Cambre, M.-C. (2013). Co-creating with youth artivists in Uganda: Authors of our own becoming. In P. Ugor (Ed.), Late-modernity and Agency: Contemporary Youth Cultures in Africa Special edition of Postcolonial Text, 8(3&4), 1–21.Robinson, L. (2013). Designing for a better world: Across boundaries and in partnership with communities. L. McTavish, & P. Brett-Maclean (Eds.) InSight 2: Engaging the health humanities, an international exhibition. Department of Art and Design, University of Alberta, 59-62. Available at

File Details

Date Uploaded
Date Modified
Audit Status
Audits have not yet been run on this file.
File format: pdf (Portable Document Format)
Mime type: application/pdf
File size: 43401309
Last modified: 2016:08:04 15:02:43-06:00
Filename: Robinson_Leslie_L_201509_PhD.pdf
Original checksum: 49d5dd1f1555a0830fb3a16aaeb06b7c
Well formed: true
Valid: true
Page count: 294
Activity of users you follow
User Activity Date