Agency and social construction: practice of the self in art and design

Matthews, Miranda. 2019. Agency and social construction: practice of the self in art and design. International Journal of Art and Design Education, 38(1), pp. 18-33. ISSN 1476-8062 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Learning in the arts has the potential to be a co-constructive means of inquiry for students, which enables experience of the self in relation to practice. This research explores a practice-based investigation of agency as self-definition, amid normative social constructions of the subject. The focus for data analysis is a project taught to BTEC Level 2 Art and Design students in a deprived area of North London (2010-12). A dialogue is presented between the implications for Sartre’s theory of free-will and a Foucauldian critique of social construction. Applications for this comparative theory are discussed here as a form of resistance to the compression of learning identities in Art and Design, and across the curriculum. This is an approach which encourages emancipated self- representation, acknowledging cultural diversity, for a discursive environment viable at all levels of study. In exploring the data, a positioning of free-will with social responsibility is identified as an inclusive forum for creative understanding, and the tolerance of difference.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


agency, free‐will, social construction, practice, diversity, gender

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies > Centre for the Arts and Learning


29 November 2017Accepted
24 September 2018Published Online
February 2019Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Dec 2017 09:38

Last Modified:

13 Apr 2021 15:00

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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