Lauren Spring


Organization: Canadian Centre For Victims of Torture; Clowns Without Borders (USA)
Location: Toronto, Canada
Year: 2010

MRP/Thesis abstract:

“Yes, And…” Transcending the ‘Incredible’ Through Humour After Torture. A case study with refugees at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture

Proponents and critics of alternative and post-development perspectives have, over the past three decades, offered significant and fiery critiques of the modernist development project. Their views have helped shape both the methodology and the structure of this study. Bringing together the fields of theatre and development, this arts-based, participatory action research seeks to explore the relationship between humour and resilience in the lives of refugees who have experienced torture. This research is theoretical, empirical and participatory in nature and is based in large part on a case study conducted with refugees at the Canadian Centre For Victims of Torture in Toronto, who, for 10 weeks in the summer of 2011, participated in improv theatre workshops centered around the principle of ‘Yes, And…’ (acceptance and advancement). This study is exploratory; thus, it seeks to discover if, and if so in what way, the themes introduced and practiced in these improv workshops would be considered by participants to be relevant or applicable to their everyday lives. The findings are promising: the majority of participants not only claimed to appreciate and take pleasure in these weekly workshops but could also cite direct (and often surprising) ways in which they applied the principle of ‘Yes, And…’ and other skills practiced in these workshops to their everyday lives. The implications of this research are varied and far-reaching for both refugees themselves and professionals involved in post-trauma treatment in both the Canadian context and elsewhere in the world. The case study itself also offers the development community an example of an arts-based participatory action research project that is process—not product—based (lest participants and their lived experiences become a commodity) and which seeks to challenge the traditional development paradigm by ‘unmaking’ representations of “oppressed” people (in this case victims of torture) through humour.