Behind the Book with Kathleen Gallagher

9781442626942Kathleen Gallagher is the author of Why Theatre Matters: Urban Youth, Engagement, and a Pedagogy of the Real. In Why Theatre Matters, Kathleen Gallagher uses the drama classroom as a window into the daily challenges of marginalized youth in Toronto, Boston, Taipei, and Lucknow. OISE is hosting a launch for Why Theatre Matters on November 6th at 5pm in the Nexus Lounge.

What inspired you to write this book?
Five years of collaborative research work with sites here and in the US, India and Taiwan made communicating this work all the more pressing. Also, I had such a team of fabulous research assistants, I wanted to create a book that would honour the intellectual community we'd created. Finally, I'm always inspired by the ways that theatre-making creates frameworks for thinking about questions of human experience and relationships, and I wanted to create a book that would bring theatre and the social sciences together.

How long did it take you to write your latest book?
5 years of research, 1 year of writing.

What's the most surprising thing you discovered during the course of your research?
Through quantitative surveys nested within the multi-sited qualitative ethnographic study across drama classrooms in Canada, the United States, Taiwan, and India, I discovered that students' 'caring' activities outside school had a very strong correlation with their in-school engagement. In fact, family and caring activities that occurred outside of school was the single most consistently correlated variable within the entire study. This was an important finding because most studies of student/school engagement do not actively consider out-of-school activities. What is occurring during those caring interactions and why was it significant to school engagement? How might caring, democratic engagement in the drama classroom support civic engagement beyond school? There are implications here for how pedagogy should be reflected upon and practiced considering the role that it plays in broader processes of democratic citizenship. How is identity shaped by these altruistic activities? How is care understood and lived across different social locations marked by gender, class, caste, race, and ability? These are questions I am taking forward into my new study.

Do you have to travel much concerning the research/writing of your book?
The research involved travel to the other sites and a lot of 'virtual travel' as well, as we used communication tools that allowed us to meet virtually with our collaborators but also to exchange digitized versions of theatre performances so we could be an audience to each other's artistic creations.

What are your current/future projects?
I have begun a new SSHRC-funded project called Youth, Theatre, Radical Hope and the Ethical Imaginary: an intercultural investigation of drama pedagogy, performance and civic engagement. This project picks up on two important ideas that came from my last project (the research of the book). In our prior study, what we came to read as a kind of profound hope operating in the most dire circumstances and conditions in both our Asian and our North American schools presents us with a deep curiosity about the place of hope for youth in a time of overlapping global crises (financial, social, political, and ecological). In our previous experience with students across sites, hope was not a state, but a practice of the most resilient youth we met. Through drama, a walk in "another person's words" became, in striking instances, the source of radical hope. How might such deep-rooted hope be more intentionally mobilized, more deliberately cultivated? How do teachers and students practice hope together? Some of the questions I will explore in the new research project which will continue to work with partners in Taiwan and India but also with new partners in England, and Greece.

What do you like to read for pleasure? What are you currently reading?
I have a great appetite for Canadian fiction. Just finishing Adult Onset, then moving on to All my Puny Sorrows.

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