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CATC / PhD Presentation - Brussels June 2015 (G. Tordzro)


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CATC / PhD Presentation - Brussels June 2015 (G. Tordzro)

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CATC / PhD Presentation - Brussels June 2015 (G. Tordzro)

  1. 1. Traditional Social Science Research Method and pan-African Arts Practice: Are There Parallels? Gameli Tordzro RM Borders Symposium PhD Research Paper Presentation Brussels: June 2015 Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State
  2. 2. The consideration that there may be identifiable parallels in pan-African arts practice and traditional social science research method is an interesting one that throws up many questions and challenges about how social science research is perceived in the context of new ways of thinking about arts and research. Patricia Leavy: arts based research is ‘carving’ new research tools (Leavy, 2009) Nelson’s (2009): to compare the practices of arts methods with those of traditional research disciplines challenges arts and social researchers. My interest: the creative, expressive and communicative ‘affordances’ the arts in general and pan African arts practice in particular, offer when thinking about social science research processes, strategies, design, questions, referencing and presentation of findings, as well as the ethical and political considerations around these. (Gibson 1986) (Bryman, 2012) (Englis, D; Thorpe, C, 2012) (Barber, E; Saverese, N, 1991) (Glăveanu 2012) Method in other disciplines is not without stages of copious making. In Engineering, for example, the researcher may go so far as to build a miniature pulp mill to conduct the science. The creative arts distinguish themselves from other forms of research […] nevertheless, our methods engage with the motif of making in a unique way. It may be helpful to compare our habits of making with those of traditional research disciplines. (Nelson 2009) Abstract
  3. 3. The theoretical underpinning for discussing traditional methods of social research and pan-African arts practice is that of phenomenology. It concerns everyday life, the ordinary mundane contexts in which music is practiced and how that informs research practice. What is present in pan-African music and its everyday making that is research and its ‘traditional’ process and method? “The cultivation of musical life in traditional society is promoted through active participation”. (Nketia 1974: cited in Herbst 2005: p. 21) Are there useful everyday practices or phenomena in participating in ‘pan- African music’ or African music making and practice that can inform traditional social research? Main Theoretical Consideration
  4. 4. It is worth noting that phenomenology would usually be described with an emphasis on experience. In that respect, artistic practices open up • Different modes of allowing us a particularly vivid awareness of experience. • Different modes of experiencing relations and encounters, • Different modes of reflecting on, and reporting on experience. Also, There is process in arts and its making: does this process mirror or resemble the process of research? Or is it a case that they do not, and a resemblance should not be contrived? Main Theoretical Consideration Contd.
  5. 5. Is it just that: and just that maybe, arts in general, and for that matter, pan-African arts method, has some value to offer research, as ‘a way, another way’ a unique phenomenal way of doing social research without comparing and contrasting it with ‘traditional’ social research methods and processes? My Linguistic Resource for understanding: Eʋegbe + English + Music + Story and Telling Eʋegbe: Afiyi-nɔ-me-nɔ-logo! English: Here-be-in-be-knowledge-of! Phe-no-me-no-logy! = The knowledge of being in the here Main Theoretical Consideration Contd.
  6. 6. My theoretical standpoint is the phenomenon of 'affordances' in creative arts practice: in this case, in the form of the ‘cre’ (what emerges out of) within the ‘creative’: as the primary resource available to pan-African arts practice. ‘Mawu Kli’ (noun) An Ewe reference to the ‘Cre’-ative force (Mawu: That which lies beyond/surpasses all) and (kle: the verb for peel off; shine; brighten) This thinking is anchored in Van Lier’s three point idea of shifting the emphasis from scientific reductionism to the notion of ‘emergence’: using an ecological approach to research, (Van Lier, 2000) which states that, at every level of development, properties emerge that cannot be reduced to those of prior levels, meaning every phenomenon cannot be explained in terms of simpler phenomena or components, “[…] not all of cognition and learning can be explained in terms of processes that go on inside the head. […] the perceptual and social activity of the learner, and particularly the verbal and nonverbal interaction in which the learner engages, are central to an understanding of learning. In other words, they do not just facilitate learning, they are learning in a fundamental way” This standpoint is also rooted in the phenomenon of what Phipps refers to as: “the ‘quick’ of human relations” Phipps, 2007: p. 1) “What happens when we ignore the ‘quick’, when our habitual ways of researching social, cultural and linguistic practices fail to search out the presence of life?” Main Theoretical Consideration Contd.
  7. 7. The focal point for this discussion of creative affordances in arts practice is music: pan-African musical culture and practice: its relation to doing research. The level and degree to which a person can transmit information, their life experiences, their thoughts, ideas, perceptions, how they make sense of the social world, is hinged on what linguistic affordances become available at their disposal. This concept is based on Gibson’s theory of ‘affordances’ (Gibson, 1986) Vlad P. Glăveanu (Glăveanu, 2012), draws links with ‘creativity’ as “a process of perceiving, exploiting, and generating novel affordances during socially and materially situated activities” Eg: aside the verbal, a musical instrument and the music created with the instrument can become a person’s additional lingual affordance to varied degrees depending on the type of instrument and its range of expressivity as well as the proficiency of the person on their instrument, thereby offering an: Extension of their Physical Communicative Affordance: related to what is available as potential extension to and beyond the borders of to the physicality of the human body. (see Barba and Savarese, 1991: p. 24). Extension of Sonic Communicative Affordance: (see Wigam et al: 1999: pp. 342-343) related to vibration and its impact on the world. This in a nutshell is the acquisition, possession and usage of sounds available outside the limitation of the human body Creative Affordances
  8. 8. • Extension of Visual Communicative Affordance: related to the spectacle of music making - the aesthetic values of musical instruments and appearances of musician and the instrument on the performance stage, with lighting and light the impact of lighting effects. It is in relation to the size of physical space occupied by musician and instrument at a particular time; the performer’s posture and position in space in relation to the other - Mise en scene, mette en scene. (what exists within and constitutes the presence of the space, what is placed or added to the space) (see Parvis 2013) • Extension of Mental Communicative Affordance (communicating with oneself - making sense of the world) The default of communicating with oneself is mental, it is a cognitive default of the silent monologue, 'The Think', which I call the 'Su' of communication. Bob Marley makes reference to this cognitive default as “I’n’I” in his song ‘Rastaman Vibration’: Live if you want to live (Rastaman vibration, yeah! Positive!) That's what we got to give! (I'n'I vibration yeah! Positive) Got to have a good vibe! (Iyaman Iration, yeah! Irie ites!) Wo-wo-ooh! (Positive vibration, yeah! Positive!) marley.html#K13pHsoW8z2bHsy6.99 Creative Affordances Contd.
  9. 9. It is also related to self-consciousness, self-awareness, which also impacts on self-confidence and interpersonal relations. This in relation to music and musical instruments, the ‘Su’ manifests in solitary music making for oneself, with oneself by oneself. Within this important affordance is increased access to: • creativity; • knowledge creation; • discovery; • solace; • reflection; • learning and skill development; • confidence building and development; • building proficiency; • practice; • overcoming inhibition; • quite time; • stillness and recharging the self. Creative Affordances Contd.
  10. 10. In relation to social research, the mental communicative affordance is the site for the artistic research question. I call this the 'the silent what if?‘ 1. "What if I play this note after that note? What if these two notes are played together before these ones, one after the other?" This becomes the birth of ‘Melody’ in the same manner that the birth of ‘Story’ could be 2. 'What if two hijacked planes were flown into the twin towers?' The notion that artistic practice does not need a question overlooks the 'silent what if'. Within the cognitive lies the artists’ mental communicative affordance. This is also the site where ‘form’ is mentally generated and nurtured and structured before it is physically expressed. Main Theoretical Consideration Contd.
  11. 11. Arts as Research and Process Reference Point: some elements of the traditional musical cultures of the Ewe and Ge people of Ghana, Togo and Benin and the Akan people of Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire. • Idea/Question • Design • Data and collection/gathering/generation • Analysis and interpretation • Theory formulation and testing • Documentation/writing up • Publication, exchange and ownership • Ethics • Outcome, impact, result value
  12. 12. Music as Method Method is regarded as the soul of research (Nelson 2009: p. 100). Contexts for social research method are formulated by a number of factors including; 1. the theories that propel the understanding of the social word; 2. existing knowledge of the subject of research; 3. how the researcher perceives the relationship between these theories and the research itself; 4. how it is assumed (the epistemological considerations) that research should be done; 5. social phenomena (the ontological considerations) viewed. Other considerations for the context of social research method include: 1. the values of the research community; 2. what the research is for; 3. the political and economic drive behind the research; 4. the training and personal values of the researcher. (Bryman 2012: pp. 6-7) In some ways, the music and its practice of the Ewe, Ge and the Akan people is also contextually framed and reflects certain aspects of method in social research, with theories, epistemological and ontological assumptions that frame understanding of the social, based on specific cultural knowledge and experience. Amegago, (2011) illustrates the formation of African communities and states as “open ended”. The manner in which a particular musical type occurs conveys theories about the understanding of the social world. For example among the Ewe, the Agbadza musical instruments depict the concept of a family unit .
  13. 13. (YouTube, AfricanMusic Safari 05/02/2015. 17:15) Still drawing on the conceptual framework of Ewe music, how the music is structured and constructed is based on existing knowledge, in this case, the basic social structure of a typical community. An additional drum ‘Atsimewu’ means the role of the Sogo changes in the same manner as the role of the father would change in the presence of a community leader. The ultimate command role is now owned and exercised by the Atsimewu in ‘Atsiagbekor’ which is a war situation. The Atsiagbekor is a battlefield enactment ‘music-dance’ and the Atsimewu plays the double role of reconnaissance and commander-in-chief, giving rhythmic instructions to warrior-dancers in relation the enemy positions: and the warriors move accordingly. This YouTube video demonstrates the role of Atsimewu in Atsiagbekor. (YouTube Video Dance-Drumming of Ghana: 05/02/15: 17:52) Music as Method Contd.
  14. 14. Doing creative arts, (pan-African arts included) is essentially a (messy) process. The value of such a process and what is generated within it as it happens in terms of method, output, outcome and impact and where these occur as a part of that process, can impact how we continue rethinking traditional social science research and its process. Schwab’s thought experiment in the editorial of the 6th Issue of the Journal of Arts Research (JAR) (Schwab, 2014) suggests two relationships with process; 1. firstly that the particularities of a research process may be important elements of the research and worthy of communication, and 2. secondly “that an opening up of the ‘lab’ and the sharing of work-in-progress, providing that this sharing touches upon the very qualities of the research process. Furthermore, ‘process’ may not only be what a researcher has done, it may also be what is instigated on the reader’s, viewer’s, or listener’s side as he or she experiences the research”. (Schwab, 2014) The elements of social research process; literature review, concepts and theories, research questions; sampling cases; data collection; data analysis; and writing up the research finding in that order, provide a logical progression framework for thinking and conceptualizing process. Art process can be tidy too in concept, but is messy in the same way as traditional social science research process is. […] social research is often a lot less smooth than the accounts of the research process you read in books […] In fact research is full of false starts, blind alleys, mistakes, and enforced changes to research plans. (Bryman, 2012: p. 15) Social Research and Creative Arts As Process
  15. 15. Concepts and Theories: Social concepts and theories are preserved and referenced in language: in the form of proverbs, adages or axioms infused in artistic work like symbols, songs and stories. 1. Adinkra symbol system of the Akans of Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire for instance offers an insight into how the Akan conceptualizes the social. 2. ‘Afa’ divination system of the Ewe of Ghana, Togo, Benin and the Igbo of Nigeria has 257 ‘Kpoliwo’ (divination sets) each with a name, a story and its concomitant song. ‘Kpoli Blamedzi’ (the devination ‘Blamedzi’) ‘One may have something in excess, but one receives a gift of that same thing with gratitude’. And the story that goes with it is told in song, and the song: Nu nɔna amesi gake wo naa nu ame wo xɔnae Blamedzi, Nu nɔna amesi gake wo naa nu ame wo xɔnae Dzɔki ku tsi tso ekpo dzi tsɔyi na Lovi le tɔme Lo ha fɔ nake e, tsɔyi na Dzɔki le dzogbe, Nu nɔna amesi gake wo naa nu ame wo xɔnae Blamedzi, Nu nɔna amesi gake wo naa nu ame wo xɔnae “One may have something in excess and still receive a gift of the same in gratitude” ‘Bla’ in Ewe means ‘tie’ or ‘bind’ ‘ame’ is the word for person and ‘èjì’ (edzi) is the Yuraba word for ‘two’ so the ‘afadu’ ‘Bla-ame-dzi’ refers to or recommends a strong tie or bond between two parties.
  16. 16. Research questions are an important aspect of research for the social science researcher in how they frame up the basics about the general idea upon which the researchers’ interests are built upon. “Developing research questions is a matter of narrowing down and focusing more precisely on what it is you want to know about”. (Bryman, 2012: p.10). Even though it may not seem obvious that questions are central to processes of doing arts, the example of ‘Kporli Blamedzi’ and its concomitant song and the whole system of ‘Afa’ divination with all the Kporlis their stories and songs and how they may have been generated, point to the fact of the presence of questions about the social, questions that led to an attempt to refute such social theories as “The more of something one has the less gratitude one feels to be gifted of the same”, and propound new ones as a part of the divination system like “One may have something in excess and still receive a gift of the same in gratitude”. Research Questions
  17. 17. ‘Su’ is the space for the ‘silent what if’ question and the source of perceived form. Questions like ‘What if Elo the crocodile got a gift of water?’ could have been the starting point (the research question) of devising the song and story of Afa Blamedzi. These are the ways in which sense is made of the world, by capturing and phrasing those aspects of the social world, in everyday life that strike us as significant. They also form a system of unpacking what is not obvious to all and shedding a light on it to reveal the same thing from another perspective, thereby creating new knowledge and understanding. There is light shed upon the concepts of friendship, gifting and gratitude by phrasing them within the theory of: “The more of something one has the less gratitude one feels to be gifted of the same” Through a story-song set within the divination system, the entire Ewe community is called upon to review this theory from a new, critical and different and enriched perspective. The result is new understanding! That is ‘research’! Or in the least, there is something ‘research’ about this! Research Questions contd.
  18. 18. There are spaces within the social where ‘the presence of life’ is always evident: these are creative spaces where the actors of the social engage with and tap into their creative affordances as part of everyday life, in a way that could be considered for observation as a way of doing social research. These, taking from Gibson (1998) and Glaveanu (2012), include what I have termed "the perceptive, the formative, and the expressive affordances" of artistic practice. How do [how can] pan African arts and their practice offer creative affordances that drive conceptualization perception, language, communication and understanding in the context of social research? To lay the foundation on which pan African arts is conceptualized as language for perceiving, forming or creating, expressing and communicating in the context of social research, is it may be the case that there is a need for a creative arts research framework developed on the concept of 'increasing communicative; expressive; creative; affordances' of the social science researcher and participant? These are questions arising from thinking about creative arts affordances as constituting the conceptual resource that also occurs in addition to perceiving, forming and expressing, as additional and (or) alternative learning spaces, 'creative healing spaces' as well as a framework for continued health and wellbeing of the researcher and the research participant when doing social research: for example, as part of the evolving research practice of the CATC Hub, at the end of interactions Case Studies and RMTC researchers, a brief improvised live music is played to capture and encapsulate the ‘energy’ of the moment and create a space of calm before everybody departs (a practice used in the final presentation of the RM Borders project application to AHRC when PI Alison Phipps talks over the recorded music and song, ‘How Long?’ composed and sung by Gameli Tordzro). Obviously, this is a function or a role which perhaps in the context of traditional social science research practice may be classified as separate from the ‘actual’ research: as additional, recuperative or supportive, but supplementary to research itself. However, this is important and crucial to the process and experience of doing pan African arts research. Conclusion
  19. 19. Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State Gameli Tordzro RM Borders Symposium PhD Research Paper Presentation Brussels: June 2015 Akpe Namì Kata!