Destination Raval Sud: A Visual Ethnography on Pedagogy, Aesthetics, and the Spatial Experience of Growing Up Urban

By Trafí-Prats, Laura | Studies in Art Education, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Destination Raval Sud: A Visual Ethnography on Pedagogy, Aesthetics, and the Spatial Experience of Growing Up Urban


Trafí-Prats, Laura, Studies in Art Education


This article focuses on issues of childhood identity and urban environment. It discusses how a performance art pedagogy inspired by nomadic and relational aesthetics can provide a framework to promote creative learning experiences that address migratory conditions and forms of public alienation lived by young people today. As Lefebvre (1991) suggests, a group only can be recognized as distinctive from others when they have the capacity to generate space. Taking this idea as a starting point, the article holds an interdisciplinary perspective and connects ideas from fields outside art education including reconstructionist studies of childhood, contemporary aesthetics, and critical pedagogy. It studies how public places and spaces are imagined and transformed from a child-sensitive perspective, and how children are public cultural agents and creators of visual culture. This theoretical discussion is projected into the interpretation of a visual ethnographic study centered on visual strategies, field narratives, and outcomes of migrant children documenting their urban environment, El Raval Sud, an intercultural neighborhood situated in Barcelona's downtown.

This article discusses the role of art education in enhancing aesthetic and social interconnections between urban children and contemporary urban environments. As Greene (1995) affirms, it requires imaginative actions to teach children who see differently from their teachers because such children have been reared in poverty or have come from distant places. Both the critical re-viewing of the knowledge that we conceive to be foundational to our discipline and the Involvement in interdisciplinary endeavors are prerequisites for these imaginative actions. Following this direction, the article interweaves a network of ideas inspired by reconstructionist studies of childhood, nomadic and relational aesthetics, and performance art pedagogy. The aim of this interdlsciplinarity is to serve a pedagogy centered on producing knowledge in action, avoiding mystification, and opening new beginnings in relation to which young people feel valued as participants in dialogues and other Instances of public knowledge.

The article follows and extends Duncum's (2002) statement that art education should include more consistent and realistic views of children. Art education should engage in more significant ways in current sociological and humanistic debates on childhood identity. Art education needs further experimentation with pedagogies that overcome modernist ideas, like seeing children as abstract and universal projects of development toward adulthood, to understand them instead as individual agents who create and modify cultural meaning.

The article is also inspired by Ideas of environmental education and the role of the arts in teaching responsive and transformative pedagogies that enhance the relationships between subjects and their local environments (e.g., McFee & Degge, 1 980; Blandy & Hoffman, 1 993; Congdon, 2004). Followers of this perspective maintain that art education has a social responsibility in bettering the quality of shared environment and in educating children with different cultural backgrounds to creatively cope with the complexities of today's changing and fast-evolving societies (McFee & Degge, 1980). In this respect, placebased art pedagogies support all kinds of people's creative, affective, and aesthetic practices of placemaking and spatial appropriation (Blandy, 2008), even when those practices challenge acquired ideas about what counts as art in modern and contemporary history (Blandy & Congdon, 1998). They concentrate on local forms of knowledge, art, and aesthetics rather than on models of globalized and standardized curriculum decided elsewhere (Graham, 2007).

The Spatiality of Growing Up

Reconstructionist studies of childhood emerged as a response to the multiple dissonances existing between the material experiences of being a child in the actual world and the institutional forms and discourses framing childhood. …

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