04 SES 07 D, Speechless: Alternatives Methods Of Investigating Inclusive Education
This paper draws on a longitudinal project funded by Arts Council England. It involved a collboration between university researchers and a community music organisation which has a remit to work with marginalised groups and foster social inclusion.
The project focused on people who do not use words to communicate: those with dementia, stroke, autism or learning difficulties. Instead of concentrating on what they lack, the project wished to explore other ways in which they communicate.The project explored how far music making might foster this communication and increase social inclusion. Instead of positioning them as 'non-verbal', it developed the concept of the 'post-verbal'. It took a post-human approach to challenge accepted ideas about what constitutes the 'human'; which tend to focus on voice and individual agency and thus exclude many people.
The main research questions were:
How far and in what ways does inclusive music making foster the social inclusion and wellbeing of post-verbal people?
Are there benefits for the networks of intimacy of post-verbal people and what are they?
How useful is post-humanism in understanding this process and what can the project add to post-human theory?
In analysing the emerging data events the researchers initially worked with a musician and the visual artist to explore the 'agentic assemblages' (Bennett, 2010) involving each participant. The researchers then used key post-human concepts such as Bennett's 'thing power' (2010), Barad's 'intra-action'(2007) and Briadottis 'potentia' (2013) to analyse the findings further.
The project took an ethnographic approach. One researcher was a researcher in residence embedded in the music organisation for 16 months and in particular following 25 post-verbal people and observing their weekly music sessions. This was combined with in-depth individual interviews with 45 members of their networks of intimacy: parents, children, siblings and carers, which were conducted by the principal applicant. 25 arts workshops were run with the project participants so they could participate and express their feelings without having to use words. These were run by an experienced community artist in collaboration with a music leader. Finally three focus groups were held with music leaders and volunteers.
The project found that the participative and inclusive approach of the community music organisation seemed to foster confidence and autonomy amongst participants.It helped develop a sense of belonging and pleasure amongst post-verbal people which was highly beneficial to their wellbeing. The use of music helped to illuminate their existing communication strategies and gave them a medium for shared understandings with others. The members of networks of intimacy gained much benefit from the music sessions. It offered them respite, but also entrance into a supportive community with shared understanding and experiences. Music helped to express and validate the potential within the person they cared for and gave them hope and comfort. The post-human approach added a strong theoretical element to the study. It provided concepts which helped move the study away from ways of thinking which did not match the participants and helped illuminate and validate their different ways of being. By exploring the 'post-verbal' the project adds a new dimension to the field of post-human enquiry.
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Half Way: Quantum Physics and the Entanglements of Matter and Meaning. London: Duke University Press. Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant Matter. London: Duke University Press. Braidotti, R. (2013). The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press.
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