Community of Inquiry and Underserved Youth Engagement: A reflective account of philosophy and method
Introduction: Arts education and inquiry
Braidotti, when considering her early career, poses the following questions:
How do we do justice to experiences that have no recognition in the language and practice of conventional wisdom, common sense and reasonableness? What is the appropriate way to express silences and missing voices? (Butler & Braidotti, 2010, p. 315)
In this paper we expand on the short answer “Art”, including visual arts, spoken word, and poetry, dancing and tableau, by elaborating upon one aspect - processes of inquiry that at their heart value recognition and voice. We begin our account by providing a dialogic narrative case study that explores an artist’s educational inquiry practice with underserved youth in British Columbia. Braided into the account are analytical reflections from a philosopher of education working in a UK teaching university. As we explore the phenomenon of giving expression to underserved youth voice, we go on to outline how Lin & Bruce (2013) address the matter. Their line is to wed critical theory and philosophical pragmatism in order to theorize inquiry with underserved youth. However, there are aspects that we find unconvincing because of unresolved tensions in ontology; tensions deriving directly from using Dewey without understanding contemporary developments in pragmatist scholarship. Our approach is to present an aspect of the work of the contemporary pragmatist, Colin Koopman, who sets out to emphasize transition, inquiry and transformation without necessarily locating agency solely in the individual. For Koopman sources of power and agency must be liberated from within contexts rather than imposed from outside as a form of utopian or dystopian scheme. This form of philosophy emphasizes action and a fluidity in the conception of ‘who’ is acting and is guided by an emphasis on meliorism, i.e. a justified hopefulness intending improvement in the situation at hand (Koopman, 2009; Garside, 2014). Such a reading has affinities with the new materialist stance of Hickey-Moody et al. (2016, p. 217), who argues that “young people’s individual and group subjectivities becom[e] through [artistic] practices”1.