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Theatre of Urban

Theatre of Urban: Youth and Schooling in Dangerous Times

With a foreword by Michelle Fine
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 192
  • Book Info
    Theatre of Urban
    Book Description:

    Because of its powerful socializing effects, the school has always been a site of cultural, political, and academic conflict. In an age where terms such as 'hard-to-teach,' and 'at-risk' beset our pedagogical discourses, where students have grown up in systems plagued by anti-immigrant, anti-welfare, 'zero-tolerance' rhetoric, how we frame and understand the dynamics of classrooms has serious ethical implications and powerful consequences.

    Using theatre and drama education as a special window into school life in four urban secondary schools in Toronto and New York City,The Theatre of Urbanexamines the ways in which these schools reflect the cultural and political shifts in big city North American schooling policies, politics, and practices of the early twenty-first century.

    Resisting facile comparisons of Canadian and American schooling systems, Kathleen Gallagher opts instead for a rigorous analysis of the context-specific features, both the differences and similarities, between urban cultures and urban schools in the two countries. Gallagher re-examines familiar 'urban issues' facing these schools, such as racism, classism, (hetero)sexism, and religious fundamentalism in light of the theatre performances of diverse young people and their reflections upon their own creative work together. By using theatre as a sociological lens,The Theatre of Urbannot only explores the very notion of performance in a novel and interesting way, it also provides new insights into the conflicts that often erupt in these highly charged school spaces.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8389-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Michelle Fine

    The lights are flickering, signalling thatThe Theatre of Urbanis about to begin. Author Kathleen Gallagher promises us, in the words of Deborah Britzman, a performance that ‘disturb(s) the impulse to settle meanings.’ Situated in four distinct schools, in New York and Toronto, the scene is neoliberal urban North America. The photo essay vivifies this now familiar site of schooling for alienation, colonizing minds and bodies, eerily stretched across national borders. Poor urban youth, usually of colour, cast as ‘dangerous’ in the larger culture tossed into schools of last resort. Their teachers’ moods swing from earnest to beaten down....

    (pp. xv-2)
    (pp. 3-8)

    This is a book about youth in public, urban North American high schools. This is also a book about the artistic theatre as a special window onto the larger theatre of school life. In other words, I have been very interested in the contemporary social, political, and artistic meanings of drama in schools. And like improvised theatre, schools operate in the ‘here and now.’

    The ethnographic study upon which this book is based was calledDrama Education, Youth, and Social Cohesion: (Re)constructing Identities in Urban Contexts. It centred upon the work, the relationships, and the ideas that developed over three...

  6. 1 CONTEXT
    (pp. 9-38)

    Urban schools are lively labyrnths of discursive and physical space. As we hear in this interview excerpt from Middleview High School, in downtown Toronto, the discursive space is often marked with double meaning for young people. The rhetoric of urban schools, what teachers, principals, researchers might call ‘urban’ or ‘multicultural’ or ‘diverse,’ is generally read by students as poor, non-White, and unruly. In Ari’s eloquence, above, we hear the perpetual binaries of urban/suburban, rich/poor, sophisticated/savage. Her understanding invites us, as researchers, to pay careful attention to the problems and ideas that we bring to the surface in our study and...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 39-53)
    (pp. 54-83)

    Ethnography is a kind of qualitative research that seeks to describe culture, or parts of culture, from the point of view of cultural insiders (Hatch 2002). In more critical terms, ethnography, as both a process and a product, provides the researcher with an opportunity to ‘disturb the impulse to settle meanings,’as Britzman argues (2000). And the writing of ethnography, Tedlock proposes (1991), is the continuation of ‘fieldwork,’rather than a transparent record of past experiences in a field. As this study looked primarily at school culture from the point of view of young people, the ethnography made particular use of participant...

    (pp. 84-139)

    Notwithstanding theoretical compatibilities with Sartre, I began this research persuaded, all the same, that drama in urban classrooms - in spite of the power of the status quo - opens up necessary imagined and real spaces for border-crossing and for imagining change and action, even in reactionary times. Our desire, then, was to observe where and when this important opening up happened, and in other cases, where and when and why it did not.

    Can issues of power, aggression, safety, inclusion, and exclusion be productively addressed in high school drama classrooms, despite the institutional, pedagogical, and curricular constraints? My work...

    (pp. 140-171)

    Since I began formal research into drama in high school over ten years ago, I have struggled to articulate how these classrooms, in the hands of wise teachers, hold out the promise that conflict might be better understood. Too much time in schools is spent on how to ‘manage’ conflict and on punitive modes of address; tomes have been written on the subject of ‘bullying.’ Governments, the world over, continue to spend millions on ‘comprehensive anti-bullying plans.’ My own view is that there is much to be gained from a creative exploration of conflict, the very kind that routinely interrupts...

    (pp. 172-182)

    Despite our claim to be committed to critical ethnographic practice, there is no way to know whether our dialogues with youth and their teachers will result in substantive change in their lives. As in teaching, one never really knows. And what would be the measure of such change? Would it be enduring change? Without the benefit of time, the most we have are our teachers’ observations of students they know, in most cases, much better than we do and the periodic comments made by individual young people

    Kathleen: You said something really interesting in your reflections about what you understood...

    (pp. 183-196)
    (pp. 197-202)
    (pp. 203-222)