George Belliveau


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

A life well lived is a life in pieces: a comic poetic exploration in life, disaster, and pedagogy (2022)

Through a comic poetic narrative, this dissertation tells the story of my inquiry as a magpie researcher into different facets and functions of humor with a particular focus on disaster humor and its pedagogical possibilities. I begin with an invitation to the reader to join me on this journey through my narrative approach in which my poetry and photographs figure prominently. Then I offer up some stories of my life to share with readers about my comic worldview. Following these stories, I review humor-related theoretical literature, my own comic worldview, disaster humor and particularly Mexican humor in response to disasters. Examining the function, form and theories of humor also involved engaging with the performances of several select stand-up comedians. My exploration of Mexican disaster humor was further enriched when I travelled to Mexico City where I taught a course on the cultural, social, and political functions of humor at UNAM, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Carrying through the theme of disaster humor, at the end of this dissertation, I briefly examine the humor emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic. This was a rather unexpected exploration; as a magpie researcher, it was an opportunity I could not ignore. As a result of this meandering inquiry, I believe that the pedagogical possibilities of humor require an engagement with discomfort, courage, and vulnerability. When we stop in these moments and spaces of discomfort, courage, and vulnerability, even for a brief moment to consider ourselves and others, a form of distanced intimacy develops. These stops then can reveal to us mechanisms of othering which paradoxically may create inclusions or exclusions. The recognition of this paradox involves a process of distancing which may also produce laughter. In these uncomfortable, at times, fleeting moments lies the possibility of rebellious change.

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Pray where waters meet: land-based metissage, ethical relationality and reconciliation (2021)

The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.

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The promise of returning home after mild traumatic brain injury (2021)

Trauma is anything that happens to us, physically or psychically, that is beyond our capacity to cope given our personal circumstances and development. Trauma devastates individuals and those who support them. Brain injuries, whether considered mild, moderate, or severe, are a common source of trauma. Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBI) are underreported injuries and can have long-lasting, life-altering effects, and even result in death. Experts have speculated that by 2020, MTBI would be one of the major causes of death around the world (Gururajc et al., 2007). The significance of this dissertation is to personalize the experience of MTBI so that others can recognize themselves in this work. This dissertation’s contribution is to open the MTBI field to personal stories in the first-person narrative through poetic works and life writing in order to expand the understanding of MTBI and its profound effects on an individual and those in relationship to them. I first examine my own history of becoming a writer and where I fit into the fields of poetic inquiry and life writing. Through this process, I examine the threads of trauma that have run throughout my life to find how they have affected my recovery from MTBI and what kinds of care I encountered throughout. My engagement with my life-writing and poetry are key to my healing.

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Poetic Inquiry: my journey in language (2019)

This dissertation is a poetic inquiry of my experience in language. Poetic Inquiry incorporates original poetry in academic writing, which ancient poets and scholars had been doing for thousands of years. However, it is not merely a repetition of the old tradition, but uses creative poetry in academic research in a systematic and diverse way. Poetic Inquiry is anumbrella concept to describe the various possibilities for using poetry in research. But, Poetic Inquiry is not any piece of writing with poetry in it. Poetic Inquiry “revisits the philosophical ideas of knowledge generation” (Galvin & Prendergast, 2016, p. xiv). Poetic Inquiry highlightsthe importance of individual expression, and generally involves poetic truth-seeking and poetical examination of inner and outer experience.The poetic inquiry of my personal experience is anchored in Chinese culture. I use eight words 春秋匪懈,享祀不忒as the frame and themes of each chapter. These Chinese words come from the first collection of Chinese poetry The Book of Songs (11th century B.C.E.-6thcentury B.C.E.), and they mean that the Lord of Lu worshipped god and ancestors incessantly. My dissertation sums up my former experience and my family stories, and it is a dedication to my ancestors. After these eight chapters of narration, Chinese poems and their Englishtranslations, and some English poems, I conclude that Poetic Inquiry grants ordinary people1 a chance to speak out their “impulses and desires” (Dewey, 1997, p. 71), and that collectively, ordinary people can contribute to the revision and reconstitution of the world by tellingpersonal stories.

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The virtual renaissance: self-consciousness through literacy/technology (2019)

A dialogue often consists of two opposing ideas, either spoken or written, that attempt to find a resolution in the exchange of ideas. The prefix ‘dia-’ has the dual meaning of separating and joining together with a sense of completeness. From Socratic philosophic treatises to superheroes outmaneuvering their archenemies in blockbuster movies, one speaker depends on the other to test their mettle and strengthen their point of view. Literacy practice within twenty-first century education requires a dialogue between two seemingly opposite viewpoints: the traditional print literacy and digital technology. Historically, print literacy was as disruptive to society as its digital counterpart, yet such literacy became normalized by the mid-sixteenth century, across Europe and beyond, creating a Renaissance that would become a model for education over the following centuries. Some voices on the side of traditional literacy see current technological development as a continuation of the disruptions caused by widespread dissemination of the printed word. Other voices cry out that smartphones need to be banned from classrooms, the Internet needs to be regulated, and children’s overdependence on digital tools has robbed them of creativity or higher cognitive functions.This thesis creates a dialogue between print literacy and digital technology by inquiring into the English Renaissance and a proposed Virtual Renaissance. Through the arts-based methodologies of fiction-based research and research-based theatre, this thesis creates a dialogue between two characters, each representing an aspect of the time and place from where they belong. John Webster is an English playwright living in London during the Renaissance. Two of his most popular plays, The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, were staged by leading Jacobean actors in such playhouse as the Red Bull, the Globe and Blackfriars. His dialogue partner is a Canadian researcher from the mid-twenty-first century, Nathan Plettner, whose familiarity with digital devices and computer-generated avatars allows him to interact with historical figures such as John through a process called retroprojection. His inquiry into theatre practices and their relationship with a virtual stage seeks a synthesis between both practices, listening to both the voices of the past and hopes for the future.

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Empire of the Son: using research-based theatre to explore family relationships (2018)

My father died on September 18, 2015. Less than three weeks later, I stood onstage at The Cultch’s Culture Lab in East Vancouver and shared with an audience of theatregoers the story of his death and his life. At the centre of this dissertation is Empire of the Son, a theatrical script that explores my contentious relationship with my Japanese father. This exploration is based on memories, interviews, and artifacts such as photographs, documents, and letters. Within the spectrum of research-based theatre, on one end there is a body of plays created by researchers for specialized audiences within such academic disciplines as healthcare or education resulting in most often “closed/conference performance based on systematic research” (Lea, Belliveau, Wager, & Beck, 2011, p. 695). On the other end of the spectrum, well known plays such as The Laramie Project (Kaufman, 2010), or the work of playwright Anna Deveare Smith have been annexed by research-based theatre scholars in response to those who continue to question its legitimacy “as a credible genre of research reportage” (Saldaña, 2008a, p. 203). In other words, research-based theatre tends either to be created by academic researchers for conference/stakeholder audiences (Lea et al., 2011), or created for mainstream audiences by theatre artists who do not self-identify as researchers. Empire of the Son is uniquely positioned as a play created by a self-identified arts-based researcher yet has managed to reach mainstream audiences. At the time of this writing, it will have played in 17 cities, and across four countries. Rarely has a dissertation play been so widely seen. Developing, performing and touring Empire of the Son has allowed me as an artist/scholar to navigate the territory of mainstream theatre through a bewildering variety of circumstances and terrain that remains largely untrammeled by arts-based researchers. These developmental and experiential contributions are theoretically and methodologically informed by research-based theatre (Ackroyd & O'Toole, 2010; Belliveau & Lea, 2016). This exploration forms the spine of this research as I examine key moments, tensions, and epiphanies I encountered while conceptualizing, performing and touring this research.

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Visiting Griffin at the Confluence of Playwriting, Ethics, and Spirit: Towards Poet(H)Ic Inquiry in Research-Based Theatre (2016)

Poet(h)ic inquiry is a pedagogical space of inquiry at the confluence of playwriting, ethics and spirit, in the context of research-based theatre. It is an inquiry about presences and absences: the yu-mu (Aoki, 2000) within ethico-spiritual dilemmas, with respect to (1) an ethic of meaning, (2) individual and social justice, (3) aesthetic values, (4) an ethic of respect (Tuhiwai Smith, 2005) regarding authorship, and (5) integrated ethical relationality in contexts of teaching-learning-creativity-playwriting-knowing. Within arts-based research, there are notable ethical gaps (Boydell et al., 2012; Gallagher, 2007b; White & Belliveau, 2010) related to a quest for ethicality (Denzin, 2006; Norris, 2009), meaning (Frankl, 1946/2004), and hope-based, emancipatory pedagogy (Freire, 2006) within located social justice. Research-based theatre (Belliveau, 2015; Goldstein, 2012; Lea & Belliveau, 2015; Lea at al., 2011; Norris 2009; Prendergast & Belliveau, 2013; Saldaña, 2005, 2011), which aims to balance aesthetics with instrumental purposes (Jackson, 2005), is well positioned for ethics-situated inquiry, within a plethora of psycho-spiritual, socio-political, and geo-historical contexts.My dissertation play, Visiting Griffin, expresses the interplay between memory and present time. While visiting an absent student actor in a hospital wing, Blythe, a director/drama teacher, inquires poet(h)ically on a thread of memories through the lens of playwriting –incorporating various art forms, genres, literacies and modalities (Siegel, 2006). Scenes depict a paradox of presence-absences: yu-mu (Aoki & Jacknicke, 2000, p. 3), within particular ethical dilemmas across time and place, towards a (possibly redemptive) visit to Griffin, who is both character and metaphor in connection with the notion of self-other: hito (Aoki, 1995, p. 6). Chorus-like, supporting characters, Henriette and Mabel, offer a bilingual presence-absence in counterpoint to Dancer, who embodies a literacy of silence. Themes emerge from Visiting Griffin such as exile and return, expatriation and repatriation, and the cost of social justice. I explore my ethics criteria in dynamic poet(h)ic relationality from various perspectives. Aesthetics in poet(h)ic inquiry is linked to sub-textuality, how theme and meaning are reflected within multi-modalities, and what constitutes aesthetic knowing. Beyond Visiting Griffin, ‘redemptivity’ may be realized as a point of departure, through integrated poet(h)ical relationality on the stage of life.

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Applied Drama as Engaging Pedagogy: Critical Multimodal Literacies with Street Youth (2015)

This critical ethnography investigates the pedagogical spaces constituted within a youth-led, participatory theatre production, Surviving in the Cracks (Wager et al., 2009). The popular theatre production documented the lived experiences of eight street-youth, including their struggles to survive in the face of cuts to public health resources in Vancouver. As an applied theatre study, this theatre project is defined as a messy and rich site of pedagogical inquiry that is examined through multiple theoretical and methodological frameworks. It draws on critical feminist pedagogy, critical youth studies and theatre and literacy research with the purpose of revealing how drama and theatre spaces provide “anomalous” (Ellsworth, 2005) learning places, or out-of-the-ordinary learning spaces, that youth and researchers collectively embodied during the applied drama and theatre process and production. Analysis of ethnographic data generated before, during, and after the theatrical production of Surviving in the Cracks suggests how drama and theatre with street youth opens up embodied pedagogical spaces. Two different methods of analysis bring multiple perspectives to this work through exploring how meaning was collectively constructed, how multimodal literacy practices were used in critical ways, how power was negotiated, how desire was manifested through imaginaries, and how safe spaces were generated by this community of youth within selected pedagogical moments of resistance during the theatre process. Specifically, the script is analyzed with a youth participant, followed by the analysis of particular moments of resistance during performance creation and production. This research advances knowledge of how informal learning spaces and youth resistances within education become crucial parts of pedagogy and should be considered as future foundations and expansions of education. Implications include using multiple methodological lenses in order to work alongside, for and with youth, as well as being able to reach larger audiences of youth, communities, educators, and scholars through different analytical perspectives. By examining how theatre provides a space for marginalized youth to engage in dialogues about complex social issues, this research contributes to the fields of critical and feminist pedagogy, language and literacy education, drama in education, critical youth studies, and collaborative methodological studies in qualitative research.

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Homa Bay memories: Using research-based theatre to explore a narrative inheritance (2014)

In her article When Missions Became Development: Ironies of ‘NGOization’ in Mainstream Canadian Churches in the 1960s (2010), Ruth Compton Brouwer discusses the move from a missionary to a secular focus in international development. To personalize this transition she tells the story of a high-school friend who, instead of following her uncle into missionary work, joined a secular Non-Governmental Organization to teach in Kenya. Compton Brouwer’s unnamed friend was my mother and the stories of her Kenyan experiences became a significant part of my narrative inheritance (Goodall, 2005). Inspired by these stories I engaged with my narrative inheritance, travelling to, and teaching in Kenya as a part of my teacher training.At the heart of this dissertation is Homa Bay Memories, a theatrical script developed using research-based theatre and narrative inquiry to explore my and my mother’s Kenyan experiences almost forty years apart. This exploration is based on letters, photos, and audio recordings left behind by my mother after her death as well as artifacts and memories of my Kenyan experiences. Through this scripted research I seek a deeper understanding of a little known but influential part of my mother’s life and how her experience has, and continues to, shape my life. Developing the script Homa Bay Memories also provided an opportunity to critically engage with research-based theatre as a methodology. Saldaña (2010) notes a lack of accounts detailing the development and “critical decision-making processes” (p. 4) encountered in research-based theatre projects. I address this gap through a careful examination of the development of Homa Bay Memories. The methodological exploration becomes the spine of this dissertation as I closely examine key moments, tensions, and decisions I faced while crafting and conceptualizing this research for the stage.These experiential and methodological contributions are theoretically informed by Bakhtin’s notion of chains of utterances (1986). This theoretical lens suggests a relentless rationality and “unfinalizability” (Holquist, 2002, p. 195) that characterizes both the understandings and presentation of the research. The dissertation concludes by suggesting possible evaluative entry points into the work.

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Social art effect: the a/r/tography and complexity of theatre education learning systems, developmental stages, and change mechanisms (2012)

This study examined how the Compassion Project, a collective theatre and social learning program, fostered positive youth and group development. The Compassion Project involved over 200 secondary students who participated in four theatre-making and social learning phases, where they inquired upon the topic of safe and caring schools. Through the process of collective theatre-making, students co-created two original plays (The Flip Side and Focus) about their social and emotional experiences in school. A/r/tography, the arts education research methodology for this study, emphasizes living inquiry and reflective practice through the examination of the in-between spaces of art-making/researching/teaching (a/r/t). Expanding upon the field of a/r/tography, this study introduces the rendering of the fourth wall as a theatre education research lens. By conceptualizing the theatre classroom as a stage, the rendering of the fourth wall directs attention to several perspectives: to the students, teacher-directors, players, and audience on both the classroom and stage sides; to the spaces in between the imaginary world of the play and the real life experiences of the inquirers; and, to the theatre-making and reflective practices. Based on observations, interviews, circle talks, and students’ written reflections, stories, and scripts, the data are analyzed and presented throughout the dissertation. The findings are conceptualized as the social art effects, which are the benefits that result from students’ social and theatre-making actions and interactions. The conceptualization also combines psychological, pedagogical, and theatre-based theories, such as positive psychology, complexity in education, and collective theatre. As a way to organize the data, the findings on the social art effect are categorized into three components: learning systems, developmental stages, and change mechanisms. This study illustrates how students’ social conditions are critical, and precede learning conditions. Furthermore, this study emphasizes the importance of integrating social learning and complex systems theories into the curriculum as a way to optimize learning spaces and to foster positive youth and group development.

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Emancipation, Empowerment & Embodiment: Exploring the Influence of Organizational Dynamics on One School's Journey to Promote Positive Behaviour and Social Responsibility (2010)

Over the course of an eighteen-month period, the staff and students at a K-7 elementary school were engaged in a district-sponsored pilot project that examined new and existing approaches to promoting positive behaviour within their school community. This research, conducted by a member of the school’s staff, retraces this investigative journey to explore various dynamics related to the approaches used by him, his teaching colleagues, and the school’s administration to increase social responsibility within the student population. Situated within an emergent methodological design, this study employed a variety of investigative approaches in a manner informed by Joe Kincheloe’s (2004) conceptualization of the bricolage. Data collected included researcher field notes that reflect everyday observations of project-related events, as well as informal discussions with staff and administration about their ongoing impressions of the school’s approach to behaviour, digital audio recordings of project meetings, and interviews with teachers and administrators during the final weeks of the pilot. The researcher’s ongoing process of self-conscious reflexivity, specifically in relation to his dual role as the researcher and a member of the school’s staff, is also included in the data and is used to examine some of the ethical and methodological dilemmas that emerged at various stages of this undertaking.Analysis of this data was purposefully conducted to examine how perceptions of authority and accountability are organizationally situated within a school community in ways that both support and resist efforts to promote positive student behaviour through proactive and reactive approaches. This research explores some of the organizational dynamics related to introducing and sustaining a new initiative in a school community, including communication patterns commonly employed by staff and administration when tensions emerge as a result of efforts to affect change in professional practice. The study identifies divisive and unifying features of various behaviour approaches employed by a school to encourage social responsibility, and how these underscore the importance of staff and student empowerment in establishing a safe and caring learning community. The implications of this research for educational leadership and professional development with respect to promoting positive behaviour in schools are discussed. Areas for further investigation are highlighted.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

After the applause : audience responses of parents through a/r/tographical scripting (2023)

In this study I examine the experiences of parents who viewed three collaborative plays based on personal narrative. Drawing from the body of literature on audience response and parent spectatorship, this research uses complementary arts-based methods of A/r/tography and Research-based Theatre to collect interview data and playwrite coded findings. True to the nature of A/r/tography, attention is given to the spaces in between spectator recollections by transforming tensions into a playscript entitled: Meet the Parents. The main conflicts in the scripted play rise out of five key tensions in the findings: closure, purpose, exchange, agency, and witnessing. Meet the Parents weaves snippets of student scripts with parent monologues to address a disconnect between educational theatre and the response it provokes. A post-script discussion provides additional analysis of the spectrum of experiences. I argue that artistically engaging with the five key tensions activates a conversation cut short by lack of audience agency. This study creates a piece of Research-based Theatre to reactivate dialogue by bringing parent voices out of the dark auditorium and into dramatic engagement with teens’ authentic stories.

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Four quadrants of research-based theatre (2021)

Research-based Theatre (RbT) is a relatively new academic methodology, gaining increased popularity across the social sciences, that involves using theatre conventions and/or public performance within the framework of a systematic research process (Beck et al., 2011; Belliveau & Lea, 2016). One of the great challenges facing practitioners of this methodology is to develop frameworks for assessment and evaluation that satisfy the needs of its overlapping artistic, research, and pedagogical considerations (Lea, 2014). Over the past two years, I have had the opportunity to participate as an artist-researcher on the teams of two RbT projects: Alone in the Ring, and Dark Secrets. Over that time, I was a facilitator, director, research assistant, and actor supporting the creative work, while simultaneously using my experiences to explore new frameworks for reflective evaluation. In this thesis I propose an adapted four quadrants (Wilber, 1998) framework for reflective analysis where inquiry is organized according to four essential perspectives: the subjective, objective, intersubjective and inter-objective. The results of which begin to carve out a more holistic reflection strategy that can offer practitioners the tools to unravel the many layers of learning found within this methodology.

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Studying the effects of a veterans transition program style retreat (Company of Men) on participants' perception and experience of masculinity (2014)

The Company of Men (CoM) retreat was created based on the findings from the Veterans Transition Program (VTP), a 10-day retreat style program that assist Veterans in their transition to civilian life. The CoM is for general population male gendered people facing some sort of life transition, stress or challenge. Research evaluating the VTP found that a key issue for Veterans were the masculine gendered traits that are reinforced in the military. The traits are proven to be unhelpful in many civilian careers and family lives once people leave the military. Since the VTP was seen to help Veterans in the domain of their masculine identities it was theorized that a similar program may be helpful for non-military masculine gendered populations. The CoM was the first attempt to translate the VTP Knowledge with a civilian population. CoM was studied through a post-retreat focus group comprised of 6 participants from CoM program. This study found a shift in participant’s experience and perception of masculinity occurred, primarily around emotional expression and help seeking. Moreover, participants elucidated on the factors of change, enactments, facilitator’s presence and working in a group.

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Playing with Possibilities: Drama in the Core French Classroom (2011)

French as a Second Language (core French) is not often a popular subject among Canadian elementary and high school students. Negative attitudes and low motivation for learning French contribute to attrition at the high school level. In this thesis, an alternative teaching approach is applied to the core French context. This action research study investigates the outcomes of using a drama-based approach to instruct core French to elementary school students. Ten students received core French instruction twice a week over a six-week period. They worked together with a teacher/researcher using drama strategies and improvisational activities to practice and improve their French language and literacy skills. The use of drama strategies proved motivational for the students who participated with enthusiasm and expressed a desire to continue learning French through drama strategies. The use of improvisational activities encouraged students to build an understanding of vocabulary and syntax and reduced their fear of making mistakes in the target language. It also increased self-confidence and motivation for continuing to learn and use French. The action research approach combined with the use of drama strategies allowed the students a greater degree of autonomy – their input and feedback was constantly requested and was used to develop content and lesson plans. This engagement in their own learning contributed to improved student attitudes towards attending French class. Overall students expressed enthusiasm for learning French actively, without having to sit at desks or repeat after the teacher throughout the lesson. Ways of implementing this teaching approach in regular classrooms need to be the subject of future research.

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Breaking the silence: beginning teachers share pathways out of the profession (2010)

This thesis explores the story of teacher attrition, the story behind the statistic that tells us that as many as 50% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years (Clandinin, Downey, & Huber, 2009, p. 145; Glassford & Salinitri, 2007, p. 5; Ingersoll and Kralik, 2004, p. 2). Research also tells us that this is not all ‘healthy’ attrition (Borman, & Dowling, 2008), and that unhealthy teacher attrition places many burdens on the education system. Using narrative inquiry, this thesis creates a space for the stories of beginning teachers. The reader is invited into a dialogue where these teachers share their experiences of induction, mentorship, bureaucracy, accountability, and their many experiences in the classroom in order to explore the complexities behind their decision to leave the classroom early. As the practices of teacher mentorship and teacher induction grow, it is essential that beginning teachers be allowed to meaningfully contribute to the dialogue in a candid way. Narrative inquiry allows the complexity of teacher induction to remain complex. This inquiry leaves space for the reader to engage in the dialogue, to bring the inquiry into his or her own context. “It is a living composting” (Leggo, 2002, p. 2); fertile ground for future inquiry and critical discussion.

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Improvising spaces: places, spaces, and do-it-yourself performance in Vancouver, BC (2010)

This thesis examines and documents the performance and arts culture emerging from underground and off-the-grid arts spaces in Vancouver, BC. This study examines a small cross-section of the city’s underground performance culture, and places it in the context of its time and place to inquire into why and how it is developing, and the impact that it is having on the individuals and communities who shape it. This study makes use of both arts-based and qualitative research methods to collect and analyze information about the practical, social and political influences that are contributing to the emergence of this section of underground culture. This study has roots in my own work as an artist and participant in underground cultural activities, and has required that I consider my role as both an insider (artist) and outsider (researcher). The written portion of this thesis examines three interconnected aspects: what kind of art is being developed in these spaces? How might it be understood as a product of its ‘environment’? And what sort of impact is this form of art-making having on the individuals who take part and on the wider community? The analysis suggests that artists’, organizers’ and participants’ experiences with and perceptions of regulations and enforcement agencies, their material limitations, and social/political values and intentions play significant roles in defining the character of underground spaces, what kinds of artistic activity takes place and how it is organized. The artist book that accompanies this thesis aims to document the creative practices that are taking place, and to reflect them back to the people who are contributing to creating this cultural landscape. With this study and artist book I hope to both capture a snapshot of what is currently taking place in a section of the underground art scene, as well as produce a work that serves as an example of research-as-art.

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