Renison prof challenges dominant knowledge practices and the subjectivity of research

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

graphic representation of brain functionIn its May issue, Forum: Qualitative Social Research published an article titled “Knowing Through Improvisational Dance: A Collaborative Autoethnography“ co-authored by Trish Van Katwyk and Yukari Seko. Professor Van Katwyk is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Renison and is known for her community engaged research.

The prologue reads, "As researchers and academics, we find ourselves enmeshed in dominant knowledge practices as we progress through the ranks of academic achievement. We are now teaching these practices to students entering academia. Discomforts about the exclusive nature of some of these practices have caused each of us to pause. Yet, the pressures to soldier on without resistance are hard to ignore, particularly as we are both early in our academic careers and face the risk of refusal as our progress lies in the hands of more powerful players. While these pressures are persuasive, we remain compelled by the possibilities of less dominant ways of knowing that lay outside of the traditional academic worldview."

Van Katwyk and Seko’s article questions traditional ways of conducting science and sheds light on the subjectivity of research and on how observations of the life experiences of other people are commoditized through this process,. The article explains how the two authors attempted to put together their different research styles in a meaningful way: "As non-artist social science researchers, the opportunity to experiment with dance-based research came to us rather unexpectedly, when Trish began collaborating with a professional dancer/choreographer to develop a dance project around youth mental health. Yukari's qualitative research on self-injury among youth initially served as the data to be represented. We received funding to collaboratively create a performative piece that used improvisational dance to represent the themes that had emerged from Yukari's research. Our decision to dance by ourselves—rather than having trained dancers perform on our behalf or asking young people who self-injure to dance their own stories– opened us up to an unanticipated way of knowing that included particular dilemmas and intimacies in our research relationships.”


Professor Trish Van Katwyk is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Renison University College.