Performing Communit(y)ies

  • Debbie Horsfall University of Western Sydney
Keywords: community work, creative action research, writing as inquiry, performance ethnography


This paper tells the story of a group of community workers, activists and academics who came together, in a participatory inquiry, to explore "good news stories of difference and resistance". Using an organising principle of social change from the margins we engaged in, and collected, local stories of hope, ordinary resistances and success. Using simple strategies such as story telling, purposeful listening, fun, laughter, food and creativity we sought to celebrate, document, analyse and make visible our successes and nurture each other. After five years 40 people came together to plan and host a creative community conference in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales (NSW, Australia). As a result of this a creative reflective writing group was established to reflect on this event using WINTER, BUCK and SOBIECHOWSKA's (1999) notion of a patchwork text and RICHARDSON's (2000) writing as inquiry as theoretical and methodological underpinnings. Concerned with talking with, rather than to, our audiences the writing group developed a play script (AMBLER et al., 2002) which was performed at four conferences. This article discusses the creative writing group/inquiry group process, the play script and performances as examples and manifestations of performative social science in action. In so doing I explore theoretical questions which underpin the historical moment of performative social science as performance ethnography. This seems important if, as social scientists, we are interested in "future-oriented research" which produces works that speak clearly and powerfully as well as works that are committed to changing the world not just describing it (DENZIN, 2000, p.915). URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0802573


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Author Biography

Debbie Horsfall, University of Western Sydney
Debbie HORSFALL teaches Gender and Society and Social Research in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Her research work has been in the community sector, is informed by a feminist ethic, has mostly been collaborative and sometimes been action research. This has involved working with people often marginalised by mainstream society: people who have a disability, homeless women, youth, people who have a mental illness, social and environmental activists, community health workers and carers. Debbie is passionate about the possibilities for social change and a more inclusive, just and equitable life for people and the planet.
How to Cite
Horsfall, D. (2008). Performing Communit(y)ies. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(2).