"You Kind of Have to Listen to Me": Researching Discrimination Through Poetry


  • Helen Johnson University of Brighton
  • Emily Carson-Apstein Concordia University
  • Simon Banderob
  • Xander Macaulay-Rettino




discrimination, privilege, participatory research, arts-based research, collaborative poetics, poetic inquiry, microaggression


Arts-based research approaches, such as poetic inquiry and autoethnography, are attracting interest for their ability to engage wide-ranging audiences with creative, emotive, and thought-provoking outputs. In this article, we discuss a new method, which draws on these approaches, combining them with collaborative research principles and practices. The "collaborative poetics" method was developed in a pilot study, where one social scientist/poet and seven young spoken word artists worked together to explore their lived experiences of discrimination and privilege. We focus here on one aspect of this research; namely, the analysis of responses to two key questions: "Where do you see discrimination in your daily life?" and "How do you benefit from discrimination?" These questions were posed initially during semi-structured interviews with five of the co-researchers, and subsequently as mini questionnaires which evoked short, written statements from 39 participants. The interview data were analyzed using collaborative poetics and the wider dataset with a "pure" thematic analysis. These different approaches are compared here, and we argue that this comparison reveals the transformative potential of collaborative poetics for both co-researchers and the intended audiences of research.


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Author Biographies

Helen Johnson, University of Brighton

Helen JOHNSON (formerly Helen GREGORY) is a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Brighton. Her work centers around creativity and the arts, with research focusing on areas such as spoken word and slam communities, educational applications of youth poetry slams, and arts interventions in dementia care. Helen is particularly interested in arts-based research and performative social science, exploring innovative cross-fertilizations between social scientific theory/research, and a range of art forms including poetry, collage and photography. She is also a spoken word poet and stage manager for the Poetry&Words stage at Glastonbury Festival.

Emily Carson-Apstein, Concordia University

Emily CARSON-APSTEIN is a musician, writer, activist, and performance artist based in Montreal. She grew up in the moss and lichen of the Canadian west coast youth poetry scene, and has competed in poetry slams from Victoria to Ottawa. She captained the Esquimalt High School team at the 2014 Hullabaloo Spoken Word Competition, and is a two-time member of the Throw! Poetry Team that represents Montreal at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. She studies music and English literature at Concordia University.

Simon Banderob

Simon BANDEROB is, in roughly chronological and mostly alphabetical order, an editor, poet, playwright, podcaster, storyteller, disgruntled dishwasher and itinerant landscaper. Simon was the one-time host of the Discordia Poetry Slam, a two-time member of the Throw! Poetry Collective's slam team and is a past poetry editor of Soliloquies Anthology. Simon collaborated in Dr. JOHNSON's "researching discrimination through poetry" project in the summer of 2016 and is a contributor to that project's anthology, "You Kind of Have to Listen to Me." Since 2011, Simon has inflicted his work upon audiences in Canada, the United States and Germany.

Xander Macaulay-Rettino

Xander MACAULAY-RETTINO is a queer poet, artist, photographer and musician from Montreal. Their work draws in part from their experiences as a chronically mentally ill, non-binary transgender person. Xander has competed and performed in poetry shows in Montreal, and has had their photos published in "Scrivener Creative Review." They also co-authored "You Kind of Have to Listen to Me," the poetic autoethnographies project chapbook. Currently, Xander works as a freelance photographer and busks in the Montreal metros.




How to Cite

Johnson, H., Carson-Apstein, E., Banderob, S., & Macaulay-Rettino, X. (2017). "You Kind of Have to Listen to Me": Researching Discrimination Through Poetry. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-18.3.2864



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