Immersion, Embodiment, and Imagination: Moving Beyond an Aesthetic of Objectivity in Research-Informed Performance in Health


  • Julia Gray University of Toronto
  • Pia Kontos University of Toronto



research-based drama, research-based film, arts-based research, hemodialysis, education, knowledge translation, health research, performative social sciences


Growing numbers of qualitative health researchers of diverse disciplinary backgrounds are experimenting with various forms of performance (e.g., film, live theater, dance) as innovative approaches to engage broader communities in complex and critical ways with research. Despite this emerging alliance between performance and research, much of research-informed performance work is informed by an "aesthetic of objectivity," which assumes a linear trajectory between research findings and performance, and minimizes the relevance of aesthetic interpretation, which we argue is fundamental to achieving critical research-informed performative work. To move beyond this aesthetic of objectivity, we will explore our development of a research-informed film, "Fit for Dialysis." We argue that embracing the role of aesthetics, imagination, and embodiment more fully is essential to achieving the full interactive, educational, and emancipatory potential of the alliance between performance and research.



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Author Biographies

Julia Gray, University of Toronto

Julia GRAY (corresponding author) is a doctoral candidate at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She is a research-informed playwright, director, choreographer and film-maker, and her research interests lie in performance as research, arts-based research methodologies, arts and health, aging, knowledge translation and arts for social change. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Arts from York University's Department of Theatre.

Pia Kontos, University of Toronto

Pia KONTOS is a senior scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network and associate professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. Her research involves the use of critical qualitative and arts-based methods to transform the culture of care in long-term care and rehabilitation settings thereby making it more humanistic and quality enhancing. Research-based drama and film are drawn upon as novel approaches to educational initiatives to effect personal and social change.




How to Cite

Gray, J., & Kontos, P. (2015). Immersion, Embodiment, and Imagination: Moving Beyond an Aesthetic of Objectivity in Research-Informed Performance in Health. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(2).