Acting Up: Theater of the Oppressed as Critical Ethnography

  • Barbara Kathleen Dennis Indiana University


In this paper the author reports on the use of Theater of the Oppressed in a long-term critical ethnography. Building on the work of performative ethnographers, she reviews the literature on the uses of drama in qualitative research and explores the traditional research lines that are blurred in the process. More important, she details the experiences collecting and analyzing data using Theater of the Oppressed. In other published accounts of performative ethnography, data collection is emphasized and data analysis is not usually discussed, in part, because the line between data collection and analysis is blurred in the use of theater as inquiry. The author not only examines that blurring but suggests a method of analysis that others might find useful. The study focused on the integration of English language learners in a Midwestern U.S. high school. The author used Theater of the Oppressed with teachers to explore their role in the bullying activities of students. The analysis reveals changes in awareness witnessed through the drama.

Author Biography

Barbara Kathleen Dennis, Indiana University
Associate Professor Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology