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Applied Linguistics Review

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‘If I didn’t know you what would you want me to see?’: Poetic mappings in neo-materialist research with young asylum seekers and refugees

Katja Frimberger / Ross White / Lyn Ma
Published Online: 2018-05-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2016-1061


The following article puts to work an affirmative approach to critical theory through poetic mappings of the process of crafting identity boxes with ESOL students from refugee and asylum backgrounds in a Glasgow-based college in Scotland (UK). The article takes as its starting point the work of feminist and neo-materialist thinkers who argue for an ontological re-orientation of our practices of inquiry. This involves the questioning of positivist research orientations, which regard language as mere second-order representations of a primary reality. We argue that such representationalist logic can implicate research participants in deficit orientations, especially when their embodied and often contested ways of being in the world defy purely linguistic or other ‘fixed’ cultural representations. With the aim to embrace epistemological uncertainty and prioritise our participants’ embodied self-articulations over our “rage for meaning” (MacLure 2013), we experimented with poetic mappings as neomaterialist, arts-based research tools.

Keywords: New materialism; ESOL education; epistemological uncertainty; arts-based research; poetic mapping; identity box pedagogy


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About the article

Katja Frimberger

Katja Frimberger is Lecturer in Theatre (Department of Arts and Humanities) at Brunel University London. Her research draws on affirmative approaches to critical theory across theatre, culture and intercultural language studies. She is continually curious to explore the possibilities and limitations of art-making practices to express, critically reflect on and transform migratory experiences.

Ross White

Ross White is Reader in Clinical Psychology at the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool. His research investigates mindfulness-based treatments and acceptance and commitment therapy for people diagnosed with complex mental health problems. He is engaged in scholarly activity that investigates the role that socio-cultural factors play in the manifestation of mental health difficulties, and explores how psychological interventions can be adapted to accommodate cultural beliefs and practices.

Lyn Ma

Lyn Ma has been teaching for over 25 years. She has taught in the community, in secondary schools and FE colleges. She was an Associate Assessor for Education Scotland. She is currently a Senior Lecturer at Glasgow Clyde College. During the last 9 years she has developed a unique ESOL programme for young separated asylum seekers and refugees who have come to live in Scotland. She has created resources and materials that are specifically designed to include opportunities for personal and social development, music, art outdoor education and ESOL. She is interested in how all forms of Art can be used to help young migrants discover their potential, create a sense of belonging and provide opportunities for social healing. She is currently exploring how to integrate the practice of Mindfulness into her teaching.

Published Online: 2018-05-10

Published in Print: 2018-05-25

This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [grant number AH/L006936/1].

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, Volume 9, Issue 2-3, Pages 391–419, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2016-1061.

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