What are you (un)doing with that story?
Qualitative Social Work
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© The Author(s) 2017. This paper contributes to growing inter-disciplinary discussion on what and how arts-informed community-engaged research can add to critical engagements with social inequalities. It is based on workshops facilitated by an inter-disciplinary university research group with the Women’s Housing Planning Collaborative Advisory in Hamilton, a funded housing project and self-advocacy group in a mid-sized Canadian city. In theoretically informed and carefully crafted exercises, workshop participants performed stories they felt compelled to tell in order to secure resources and empathy from social service professionals. These performances made visible the draining nature and practical limitations of interactions between clients and social service professionals in which only particular affective postures and stories of need qualify clients as worthy of concern. The women then used first-person narrative and image theatre to evoke the worlds they are imagining for themselves and others in their advocacy work. Drawing on feminist, post-colonial, anthropological, and performance studies literature, we describe and analyze how the workshops methods of dramatic ‘play’ enable nuanced, powerful, and collectively energizing critical engagements with painful norms of social (mis)recognition.