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Critical Plays

Embodied Research for Social Change

2014 - 202 pages

Anne Harris (Monash University, Australia) and Christine Sinclair (University of Melbourne, Australia )

ISBN Paperback: 9789462097537 ($ 36.00)
ISBN Hardcover: 9789462097544 ($ 99.00)
ISBN E-Book: 9789462097551

Subject: Research Methodology, Qualitative Research

Number 11 of the series: Social Fictions Series

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Critical Plays

Critical Plays is the systematic study of one (fictional) classroom culture populated by six students and their two professors, imaginatively conceived from interviews, experience, observation and thematic analysis, and shaped into performance text.  This play-as-research-text aims to provide an encounter both creative and scholarly for readers. The characters who populate it are drawn from the authors’ lived experiences as researchers, teachers, and performance makers.  The characters are drawn from the fields of health, performance studies, education and leadership studies to remind readers of the political, social and scholarly power of creative research approaches. The text also attests to the potential of integrating emotion and relationality in the research space. This text is a must-read for qualitative researchers and students of health sciences, communications, interdisciplinary ethnography, rhetoric, education, sociology, drama and theatre arts. Relevant to the lives of an emerging generation of researchers and students, this text highlights new methodological pathways that are open to them as they begin their own scholarly undertakings in a rapidly-evolving global research landscape. It also poses serious questions about education, identity and creativity that readers can reflect on. Written with humor and passion, students will enjoy reading excerpts aloud in class, or on their own. This play can be read or performed purely for pleasure, or used as a class text in courses that address qualitative research methods, performance studies, education, teacher training, pedagogy and curriculum, arts-informed inquiry and research ethics.  

Anne Harris, PhD is a playwright and scholar who addresses themes of diversity, creativity and gender in her work.

Chris Sinclair is Head of drama education at the University of Melbourne. She is also a freelance community artist who draws on research in her arts practice and the arts in her research.


The rapidly expanding community of art-based research seeking models for inquiry together with those in the arts, education, psychology, social relations, and all fields concerned with how the creative process can further human understanding will welcome Critical Plays by Anne Harris and Christine Sinclair. Long before we started deliberating the nature of legitimate research methods, theatre and enactment plumbed the depths of human experience, generating lasting evidence of how fiction and drama have unique abilities to articulate and embody the complexities and subtle realities of the personal psyche, human relationships, and social action. It is time to integrate the parallel play between the arts and other academic disciplines for the benefit of all.
– Shaun McNiff, author of Art as Research (2013) and Art-Based Research (1998), and University Professor, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA (USA)

Critical Plays: Embodied Research for Social Change is one of the most methodologically creative and theoretically innovative sources to date for arts-based research. Using autoethnographic writing strategies to create deeply embodied characters, this play-asresearch- text moves the reader into the critically reflexive felt-sense experience of students and professors engaging qualitative research and critical pedagogy for social change. Scholarly, performative, and creative, Critical Plays is a necessary text for the multidisciplinary qualitative research classroom.
– Tami Spry, Body, Paper, Stage: Writing and Performing

Autoethnography Harris and Sinclair bring not just their expertise as arts-based researchers but their artistic quality to this exceptional book. The characters’ monologue and dialogue are genuine, insightful, and unabashedly honest.
– Johnny Saldaña, Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University (USA)

True to the precedents set in the Social Fictions Series so far, in Critical Plays Harris and Sinclair offer a bold experiment researching principles of arts-based research in scripted form. Drawing on their experience and inquiry as scholars and artists, the authors set their play in a graduate level methods class – a clever backdrop for exploring their understandings of the complexities of arts-based research through the multiple perspectives and various investments of their characters. With the integrity of using a performance-based method for traversing this rich and provocative research-scape, this book will undoubtedly prove an invaluable resource for scholars, instructors and students of arts-based research … as well as an engaging and sophisticated read!!
– Diane Conrad, Assoc Professor of Drama & Theatre, University of Alberta (CAN)

Critical Plays takes you inside arts-based research on a visceral, pedagogical, and artistic level. The authors share a fictional classroom narrative in the form of a playscript, exploring the dynamics and complexities of working in an arts-based way. Highly engaging, deeply informed, and artistically rendered, I strongly recommend this book for both the newly initiated and highly experienced arts-based researcher. A must read.
– George Belliveau, Professor, University of British Columbia (CAN)

Critical Plays: Embodied Research for Social Change is an important addition to the field of arts-based research. The original and innovative approach undertaken by Harris and Sinclair is used to explore the research journeys of university students and their teachers by presenting their reflections, interpretations and reactions through this play text which examines significant elements of artsbased research through this process. The humanity and authenticity of each character engages and resonates with the reader. Characters directly address the audience allowing co-construction and counterpoints of reflection throughout the research journey. The transformative value and strength of arts-based research is presented in an aesthetically-crafted play (research text) which provides insights into the complexity of this field for those who seek to embody this approach. Each scene centres on an important aspect of arts-based research and provides the reader with greater understanding of this approach and where it is positioned in the field of qualitative research. Harris and Sinclair’s passionate advocacy of arts-based research underpins this text which is enriched by their extensive experience and expertise in the arts field. This is an engaging, thoughtful, and significant text which is a ‘must have’ on any bookshelf.
– Margaret Baguley, Associate Professor of Arts Education, University of Southern Queensland (AUS)

This new book is an engaging and innovative addition to the scholarly literature on arts based and arts informed research methodologies. Written with insight, humour and deep knowledge of the field this performance text explores both the potential and power of creative research approaches. A must for emerging and experienced qualitative researchers.
– Robyn Ewing, Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts, University of Sydney (Australia)

To paraphrase the Bard, ‘Plays are such stuff that reality is based upon on and our lives are awaken by their insights’. Such is the work of Harris and Sinclair. Be prepare to LOL as you ‘conspire’ or ‘breathe with’ (Barone) the script recalling many class events, reflecting upon why things are this way, and challenged to change your behavior as students and teachers. As both researchers and playwrights, they have compiled a fiction that is all too real. Can’t wait to see it performed!
– Joe Norris, Professor of Dramatic Arts, Brock University (CAN)

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Critical Plays