Data from the heart: an autoethnographic study of working with marginalized communities as an art therapist

Bronwen Gray

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

491 Downloads (Pure)


Inside these pages are some stories about what it is like to work as an art therapist with marginalized communities. It traverses experiences over two countries – Australia and New Zealand, and although these two cultures differ considerably, the stories of poverty bear remarkable resemblances. It seeks to expand the gambit of what art therapy can include, and in particular when it is practiced at the margins, acting disruptively, which is the ultimate role of any fringe activity. With a commitment to post modern ideology and human rights principles it is written as an autoethnographic study. As such, you will not find neatly defined sections entitled literature review or hypothesis, or a nice neat answer to a question, because this is not how autoethnography works. Instead the ultimate story has been deconstructed, the literature is woven through, assisting with the triangulation of the picture I paint. It relies heavily on symbolism and art making to tell a set of stories – stories that need to be told. It does not purport to speak of an ultimate truth, even though nothing in this document is a work of fiction. It acknowledges that others may have very different stories to tell about the exact same set of events. As the author though, whilst the facts may be contested, I take the ultimate responsibility for the stories I tell. By starting with my lived experience it reflects on some of the ethical issues that surround the ‘business of marginalization’ and the role that art making can play in revealing what lies hidden in the shadows. Empowerment, which is the shared feature of postmodernism and human rights, is repositioned as a two sided coin. One side of the coin involves partnering with marginalized communities to cocreate outcomes that strengthen their ability to be proactive in decisions that affect their lives.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Data from the heart: an autoethnographic study of working with marginalized communities as an art therapist'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this