A practice-based consideration of Foucauldian 'Art of the Self': Reflecting on self-definition in learning and diversity of cultural representation in the arts

Matthews, Miranda. 2017. 'A practice-based consideration of Foucauldian 'Art of the Self': Reflecting on self-definition in learning and diversity of cultural representation in the arts'. In: British Education Research Association Conference 2017. Sussex University, United Kingdom 5th September 2017. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

The proposal for this workshop corresponds with my practice-based research which aims to address issues of cultural representation in the arts for under-represented groups, notably black and ethnic minority students and white working class students (Warwick Commission, 2015; Sutton Report, 2016). As a method for affirming diverse creative subjectivities, I explore a connection with Foucault’s technology of self, which he terms an ‘art of the self’ (Foucault, 1996). The intention is to investigate possibilities for self-definition through praxis – defined as practice informed by theory.

Foucault returned to ancient Greek philosophy to identify techniques for empowering and nurturing the self, which are presented as 1) Care of the Self, 2) Self Knowledge and 3) Parrhesia – or frank speaking (Foucault 1988, Foucault 2005). Implications for these reflexive processes will be considered in this workshop through discursive practice-based activities, which will now be outlined.

Introduction: The three technologies of self, are explained as they may inform processes of self-definition, creative decision making, and frank self-expression. These concepts would also be discussed as they relate to the work of contemporary artists. The workshop would then provide participants with a space to focus on Parrhesia, in order to engage with the meaning of this concept in more depth.

Activity 1: Participants are asked to identify significant historical figures who have spoken out for their beliefs, against dominant social structures. In pairs they discuss their own history of vocal challenge, and also times they have been afraid to speak out.
Each person then has space to talk about what it is in society that restricts creativity for themselves and for others they identify with. The other person in the pair writes down the speaker’s key expressions on a length of paper fixed to the wall. In review, the group considers how this work could be situated to raise awareness of the issues in focus.

Activity 2: Participants talk about their current fears for society. They are asked to draw symbolic images of their fears, which may be abstract or representational. They then surround the symbolic drawings with representations of that which makes them less afraid. Participants review the effects of the combined drawings.
The emphasis of the workshop is on reflecting how the processes involved, as creative vocalisations, may be applied in inclusive pedagogies. The workshop activities are intended to benefit participants working in all disciplines, who would like to explore reflexive, philosophical self-awareness in practice.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Other)


representation, self-definition, arts and learning, Foucault, parrhesia, care of the self, technologies of self

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


6 September 2017Completed

Event Location:

Sussex University, United Kingdom

Date range:

5th September 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Nov 2017 15:49

Last Modified:

27 Mar 2019 14:29



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