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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Children as activist artists: Constructing citizenship through social justice arts-based participatory action research

  • Author(s): Kohfeldt, Danielle Marie
  • Advisor(s): Langhout, Regina D
  • et al.

This dissertation investigates the creation of social justice art as a context for children's critical citizenship education and community empowerment. Drawing on data from an arts-based, after-school, youth participatory action research program with 4th and 5th grade low-income Latina/o children, this ethnographic case study investigates the creation process of a school mural depicting the histories, strengths, and struggles of community members. Data for this research include ethnographic fieldnotes, semi-structured participant interviews with children and adults, and archival data (e.g., curriculum, participant evaluations, art projects). Results highlight how participation in creating social justice-oriented art can facilitate membership, participation, collective solidarity and creativity in participants as they work to construct alternative narratives within their school community. A particular focus is on the institutional and ideological tensions that arose in response to children's participation in social justice art. Finally, the study emphasizes the importance of an intersectional approach to children's citizenship education, as well as the constructive function of tension within social justice oriented change efforts.

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