Qualitative Research: The Complexity of Ethnographic Research and Information Research in Theatre Design

The complexity of Ethnographic Research

The Growing Popularity, Significance, and Complexities of Performed Ethnography, and Research-Informed Theater in Qualitative Research 

As many Qualitative Inquiry readers already know, per-formed ethnography and research-informed theater are research methodologies that involve turning ethnographic data and texts into scripts and dramas that are either read aloud by a group of participants or performed before audiences. 

In the last 20 years, the use of performed ethnography and research-informed theater research methodologies in our field of educational research have grown in popularity across Canada, the United States, Britain, and Australia (Ackroyd & O’Toole, 2010; Denzin, 2003; Goldstein, 2012b; SaldaƱa, 2005, 2011). F

or example, in Canada, it is practiced at the Arts-Based Research Studio at the Faculty of Education, University of Alberta (http://abrstudio.word- press.com), within the “a/r/tography” research group in the Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia (http://m1.cust.educ.ubc.ca/Artography) and at the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography at York University (http:// imaginativeethnography.org). 

In addition, there are now two theater-related research methodology courses offered at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto (OISE/UT): Performed Ethnography and Research- Informed Theatre and Applied Theater Research in Performance Sites. Also at OISE/UT, the Research-Informed Theatre Exchange (RiTE) meets monthly during the academic year to provide an opportunity for research-informed theater artists and academics to come together to exchange ideas, discuss their work, and share best practices. 

In the United States, the Art-Based Educational Research (ABER) Special Interest Group (SIG) within the American Educational Research Association (AERA; http://www. abersig.com) provides a space for performed ethnographers and research-informed theater artists from around the world to share their work. In Britain and Australia, several important methodology books have been published (Ackroyd & O’Toole, 2010; Brown, 2010) providing researchers with strong examples of performed ethnography and research-informed theater projects. 

Finally, an international community of scholars and artists interested in the subject regularly attends the International Congress for Qualitative Inquiry held at the (American) University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois.

Articulating the Complexities of Performed Ethnography and Research-Informed Theater Design 

While the methods of performed ethnography and research-informed theater are becoming increasingly popular in Western educational research, designing a performed ethnographic study is a complex task. In this article, we argue that there are three areas of design that need to be considered when conceptualizing a performed ethnography/research-informed theater project in the field of education. 

They are research design, aesthetic design, and pedagogical design. Sometimes these three sets of design demands compete and lie in tension with each other (Goldstein, 2008a, 2008b) presetting performed ethnographers and research-informed theater artists with a variety of issues and dilemmas to resolve when conceptualizing and implementing their research projects.

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