Thesis Research Presentation at the Power of the Arts National Forum at Carleton U

Toronto Youth Cabinet Ignite n' Impact Awards 2012

Toronto Youth Cabinet Ignite n’ Impact Awards 2012

Between November 7 and 9, 2014, Carleton University will be hosting the Power of the Arts National Forum. This year’s theme is “Acting Now for Social Change.”

The Forum is co-organized by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation and Carleton University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. It convenes researchers, business leaders, legal experts, policymakers, urban planners, architects, youth, health practitioners, artists, and representatives of other key sectors of Canadian society. The main objectives of the Forum are to reinforce a Pan-Canadian and multi-sector network of researchers, practitioners and organizations using the arts as tools for social change and to enhance an action plan reinforcing national, regional and local initiatives using the arts to improve the quality of life in underserved communities.

I will be presenting my thesis research on Saturday, November 8th during the Public Safety and Access to Justice Workshop.

Presentation Summary:

This presentation is inspired by my direct experiences as a Hip Hop educator and my subsequent journey as a scholar to document and investigate the potential of Hip Hop education in the task of social transformation. Specifically I will introduce the possible challenge Hip Hop educational spaces can pose to the punitive and exclusionary norms that constitute the cultural groundwork of the school to prison pipeline. I will also consider how the strategies employed by Hip Hop educators when dealing with conflict and violence in the classroom, have the potential to challenge general ideas of how justice is defined in contemporary North American society.

The normalized presence of police in schools as the first response for principals in disciplinary action, the increasing use of lawyers as everyday advocates for students, the correlation between exclusion (i.e. suspension, expulsion and dropout rates) and increased chances of incarceration illustrates that Canada’s notion of justice in education is closely related and often borrows from the criminal justice system. Considering that as bodies that are raced, gendered and classed, the populations that receive consistent punishment in the school system fit a similar discursive structure as bodies within penal institutions, it becomes apparent that particular societal relations of power are being produced and reproduced from the classroom to the prison.

This conversation on justice is not only a consideration of it as a historically constituted concept but also presents justice as a practice that is embedded in technologies of morality, regulation and management. In recognizing the capacity that educational institutions play in legitimizing and reproducing dominant culture this presentation will create a space to explore the simultaneous potential of the classroom to be a space for disruption, questioning and innovation.

Based on the research I conducted for my M.A. thesis, I will be sharing data gathered through interviews with Hip Hop educators in New York and Toronto that details their attempts to create alternative spaces of learning. The focus on Hip Hop educators who are invested and committed to social justice provides a unique opportunity to find parallels and intersections between a Hip Hop world-view and practices of restorative justice.

For more information on the forum and to see a detailed program, please visit the Michaëlle Jean Foundation website:  http://www.fmjf.ca/en/programs/power-arts/

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