Expression of Story: Ethical considerations for participatory, community- and arts-based research relationships

Trish Van Katwyk, Veen Wong, Gabriel Geiger


INTRODUCTION: This meta-research article considers the ethics and efficacy of a nonviolent, “braided” methodology used by a research study called “The Recognition Project.” The methodology of The Recognition Project interweaved participatory, community-, and arts- based approaches in an effort to create a cooperative, relationally oriented environment where three distinct communities of interest could contribute respectively—and collaboratively—to the sharing, creation, and public dance performance of stories about self-harm. The three communities of interest were university-based researchers, community-based researchers who had engaged in self-harm, and an artist team of choreographers, a musician, and professional youth dancers. Our article explores some of the experiences, as shared by dancers of the artist team, from narrative interviews following the final dance performance.

METHOD: Data were collected through qualitative interviews conducted with six artist team members. A qualitative thematic analysis approach was used to identify the main themes.

FINDINGS: What emerged was an overriding theme about Story and the power issues that came forward due to the personal and the collective aspects of Story. The power issues were related to individual and collective exercise of power, the use of dialogue to build a positive community, and the transformative potential for the artist collaborators to participate in such a study.

CONCLUSION: While participatory, community- and arts-based projects are often taken up with the intention of facilitating research that will not harm, there are important and additional ethical considerations to be made in community-based collaborations that feature difference across perspective, experience, skill, and knowledge.


Participatory, community-based research; arts-based research; meta-research; power dynamics; research ethics

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