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

  • Author / Creator
    Robinson, Leslie L
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. 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.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Secondary Education
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Wallin, Jason (Secondary Education)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Donald, Dwayne (Secondary Education)
    • Ibrahim, Awad (Education)
    • Kirova, Anna (Elementary Education
    • Smith, David G. (Secondary Education)