University of Cambridge > > Arts and Creativities Research Group > Embracing the Mosaic: Crafting Collaborative Arts-based Research for Critical Resilience

Embracing the Mosaic: Crafting Collaborative Arts-based Research for Critical Resilience

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A mosaic brings together fragments from different sources, crafting them into a whole object. Mosaics do not seek to hide the points of disconnect between these fragments, but use them to create things of beauty, which embrace, not just a new form, but new meanings and a new utility. This analogy aptly encapsulates the participatory, arts-based research method of ‘collaborative poetics.’ In collaborative poetics, artists, academic researchers and community participants work together as a ‘research collective’ to produce creative texts. The method harnesses the skills and knowledge of all of these groups to produce innovative, creative pieces which enrich our understanding of social issues and the lived experience of these issues, helping communicate this new knowledge in engaging, accessible ways. Collaborative poetics has been used to build resilience within communities, advocate for social justice, enhance knowledge/skill sharing between fields, and provide an innovative teaching tool.

In this presentation, Helen draws on examples from her previous research using collaborative and arts-based research methods and on reflection from her own personal journey to tell the story of collaborative poetics; its roots, shoots, ideology and methods. In the process, she speaks to the concept of ‘critical resilience,’ which emphasises the need to balance the nurturing of individual resilience with a social justice model, which challenges the conditions that create a need for such resilience in the first place.

Helen Johnson is a senior Psychology lecturer at the University of Brighton. Her work centres around creativity and the arts, with research focusing on areas such as spoken word and slam communities, and arts interventions in health, education and dementia care. Helen is particularly interested in the intersections between arts-based research, participatory research and social justice. She is also a spoken word poet and stage manager for the Poetry & Words stage at Glastonbury Festival. For more information, see:

This talk is part of the Arts and Creativities Research Group series.

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