This object holds : exploring adolescent identity through object-based performance

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Bower, Briana Rae

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As a growing body of research from the fields of psychology, anthropology, and social sciences describes how engagement with objects not only shapes our cognitive processes, but helps us organize our identities and form our sense of self, this document considers how educators and researchers might transition this research into an embodied practice in the classroom (Malafouris 2; Csikszentmihalyi 22; Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 330). This MFA thesis documents a series of object-based performance workshops facilitated in a middle school theatre class. This project served as the basis for a qualitative, grounded theory research study that looked closely at how students engaged with and responded to the project as a means to explore questions concerning students’ construction and performance of identity and their perceptions of value surrounding this object-based performance work. In order to explore these notions, this research is placed in conversation with prevalent theories of adolescent identity formation and notions concerning the performance of identity. Based on the data collected, this document posits that object-based artistic work serves as a compelling site in which students to explore their identities. Through these performances, students shared a variety of identity markers in relation to their objects and made choices, consciously or otherwise, concerning what to share and what to conceal to their classmates. When discussing the value of the project, students named the ability to explore identity and the ability to share their identities most frequently as qualities of value. Finally, this document addresses discoveries concerning the facilitation and perceived impact of this work, and proposes questions for further research concerning youth identity exploration through object-based performance work.


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