Performing Social Research: Bringing disability history to 21st Century Audiences
This 12 month ESRC Follow-On Fund project aims to increase disability awareness, stimulate historical understanding and build the historical agency of secondary school children (years 7-11). Exploring the interrelations between disciplines and methodologies, it will use a mixture of established and innovative performance tools to transmit oral history texts of disabled people, generated through social scientific disability research, to 21st-Century school-age audiences. The biographical case studies and socio-historical contexts framing the lives of disabled people (born in the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s) will form the stimulus materials for a series of school-based workshops and an extended Theatre-in-Education package.
Aims & Objectives
The project will use a mixture of established and innovative performance tools to transmit oral history texts of disabled people, generated through social scientific disability research, to 21st-Century school-age audiences. Life history interview transcripts, audio recordings and macro-level analysis concerning the socio- historical, cultural and policy contexts which framed the lives of young disabled people (born in the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s), will form the stimulus materials for a series of school- based workshops (with disabled and non-disabled children) and an extended Theatre-in-Education package.
The project will demonstrate and confirm how the collaboration of disciplines (performance studies and critical disability studies), academics (in social science and performance studies) and practitioners (disability arts and education) can transpose new understandings of disability history and culture to pupils, teachers, practitioners, and to policy makers. In so doing, it seeks to achieve the following:
- Increase disability awareness in schools, by encouraging a new generation of school children (disabled and non-disabled) to engage with the life stories of disabled people born in distinct historical times. Inclusion of disabled people’s lived experiences within the school curriculum will contribute to an important policy goal, outlined by the Disability Equality Duty (2011) that requires schools to ‘promote positive attitudes to disabled people’. Further it will support the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’ (Charlton, 1998) reflecting the philosophy of the Disability Rights Movement.
- Stimulate an historical understanding to disability and social change through the adaptation and extension of well established Theatre in Education methodologies. Engaging with biographical stories not only offers a way understand individual lives but also the socio-cultural worlds in which their lives are embedded and how these change over time. Further they offer insights into how impairment and disability is negotiated and constructed (i.e. either as a personal or social phenomenon), by different biological subjects (Goodley & Tregaski, 2006)
- Develop children’s sense of historical determination and capacity as historical agents by providing opportunities for them to embody and manipulate stories of disability history and culture in English society, thus generate new narratives about how and why life has changed for disabled people from WWII to the present day. Given the increasing cut in public expenditure by the 2010 coalition government it is important that young people learn lessons from history and consider alternative ways in which historically oppressed groups (i.e. disabled people) can achieve equality and inclusion in society.