My Stage: Participatory Theatre with Immigrant Women as a Decolonizing Method in Art-based Research




arts-based research, participatory theatre, social work, art education, immigration, decolonizing research method


This article discusses how art-based research can function as a decolonizing research method. Its analysis is based on the collaboration of social work and art education disciplines for advancing social justice and deconstructing power dominances. Empirically, the research builds on a participatory theatre project, “My Stage,” with immigrant women. The project was established as part of a larger interdisciplinary project, “Art Gear,” in Northern Finland, which promoted the bidirectional integration of the local population and people with immigrant backgrounds. The research data were collected through participatory observation and reflective discussions by the social work researcher in the theatre workshops. By the analysis of an interdisciplinary team of social work and art education researchers, we develop a context-sensitive framework of art-based research to advance decolonizing research methods, which contribute to supporting the agency and inclusion of marginalized populations in research and in their integration processes at times of complex and rapid demographic and societal changes.

Author Biographies

Enni Mikkonen, University of Lapland

Enni Mikkonen is a postdoctoral researcher in Social Work and Service Design. Her research interests are art-based methods in social work, migration and social integration, decolonizing and feminist social work, critical whiteness and racialization studies, ethnography and research ethics.

Mirja Hiltunen, University of Lapland

Mirja Hiltunen is a professor of Art Education. Her research focuses on social engaged art and art-based action research in the North. She has published widely on community-based art education.

Merja Laitinen, University of Lapland

Merja Laitinen is a professor of Social Work. Her research interests focus on child, youth and family social work, clienthood, inter-professionality and values, sensitive research methodology and research ethics.


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How to Cite

Mikkonen, E., Hiltunen, M., & Laitinen, M. (2020). My Stage: Participatory Theatre with Immigrant Women as a Decolonizing Method in Art-based Research. Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, 5(1), 104–128.