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Title: Innocent performance? : ethics and politics in theatre-based migration research with undocumented children in South Africa
Author: Opfermann, Lena Sophia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 4078
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2017
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Calls for enhanced ethics standards in research with (forced) migrants are expressed in the ‘triple imperative’ which demands the production of policy relevant knowledge in a truly ethical way. Critics further argue that policy-oriented research is limited in its effects as it overlooks the perspectives of those outside existing categories. This dissertation interrogates these discourses through a South African case study by drawing on (forced) migration, performance and childhood studies. Specifically, it explores a) in how far a theatre-based methodology fulfils the demands of the triple imperative, b) how undocumented migrant children experience their lives in South Africa within the context of increasingly restrictive migration policies and hostile attitudes towards foreigners and c) in which way theatre-based research produces (policy) relevant results. Based on an empirical theatre-based study that consisted of a series of workshops with undocumented migrant children of four different African nationalities, this dissertation illustrates firstly that theatre-based research fulfils enhanced ethics standards by producing reciprocity and honouring participants’ ownership. Secondly, it shows that this methodological approach creates in-depth meaning by enabling embodied knowledge to surface. Thirdly, the study demonstrates that theatre produces ethically, aesthetically and policy relevant outcomes through ‘affective transactions’. The dissertation offers three main contributions to the social sciences. Theoretically, it advances the debate on social research ethics by arguing that ethical research practice should derive from moral values rather than from guidelines or people’s demographic characteristics. Furthermore, it proposes an integrated enhanced ethics approach to research. Methodologically, the dissertation expands the repertoire of (forced) migration studies by demonstrating that theatre-based research is conducive to the triple imperative. Practically, it provides policy relevant knowledge on undocumented migrant children in South Africa by revealing that participants display ‘performative agency’ to confront and resist their challenges as unaccompanied/separated, foreign and undocumented children.
Supervisor: Jones, Martin ; Gready, Paul Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available