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Title: Affective materials : a processual, relational, and material ethnography of creative making in community and primary care groups
Author: Desmarais, Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 3061
Awarding Body: University of the Arts London
Current Institution: University of the Arts London
Date of Award: 2016
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This research concerns neglected affective, relational, material, and processual dimensions of amateur crafts practice in an arts-for-health context. Existing studies on the social impacts of the participatory arts are prone to blur the borders between advocacy and research, and are vulnerable to accusations of ‘policy-based evidence making’ (Belfiore and Bennett, 2007, p.138). Researchers have relied predominantly on interview material and surveys, and there is a lack of finegrained, long-term, ethnographic work based on participant observation. The distinctive potentials of making in this context, furthermore, have barely been investigated. This thesis addresses these deficits through a sustained ethnographic study of two wellbeing-oriented crafts groups supported by Arts for Health Cornwall (AFHC). One group was based in the community, the other in primary care. Observation produces novel understandings of the potential benefits of crafting for health as emergent properties of particular locations, relationships, and practices organized in distinctive ways around creative making. Firstly, as a counterweight to normative views of amateur crafts creativity as soothing and distracting, this study highlights a range of transformative affects including frustration, creative ambition, and enchantment. Secondly, countering an atomistic, stable depiction of such affects, this study describes them as fluid aspects of making processes. Thirdly, these unfolding processes are seen to be inseparable from the intersubjective (peer-to-peer and participant-facilitator) dimensions of creative groups. Lastly, this in vivo perspective problematizes a view of materials as an inert substratum upon which makers exercise their creative powers, and highlights the relevance of a ‘vital materialism’ (Bennett, 2010) for understanding the potential benefits of manual creativity. Sustained observation also produces a situated, spatial account of the extended networks of community belonging produced by the activities of such groups. Fieldwork is contextualized within a wider field using interviews with nine UK arts for health organizations. Consideration is also given to the influence of contemporary discourses of wellbeing, agency, and creativity on policy making in the area of arts for health. Findings have implications for good practice in the field, and for further research to inform political leadership concerning the role of the arts in health. These implications are drawn out in relation to the potential future contribution of the arts within a UK health economy undergoing rapid, crisis-driven transformation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Health Policy ; Crafts not elsewhere classified