MOVING TOWARDS THE TRIALECTICS OF SPACE, DISABILITY, AND INTERSECTIONALITY: INTERSECTING SPATIALITY AND ARTS-BASED VISUAL METHODOLOGIES.
Geographical imagination and spatial justice has never been more momentous (Soja, 2010). As Said (1993: 7) declares, "None of us is beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography." Yet, the significance of space continues to be underestimated and disconnected in societal and historical processes. Across institutions of higher education, this is particularly evident as institutional diversity disputes continue to surface in a myriad of ways. There is pushback to address and facilitate a culture of diversity and inclusion, especially for the marginalized populations of students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The changes include updating tenure criteria with a requirement that candidates participate in structuring inclusive, diverse, and collaborative environments (Jaschik, 2016), increasing the number of underrepresented minority faculty and students (Flaherty, 2016; Logue, 2016), implementing diversity training among the staff, adding diversity and inclusion to the university's core values (Logue, 2016), and enacting a separate student government to ensure representation of minority students and their needs (New, 2016). This paper contributes to this current dialogue by discussing the significance of consideration of space and its implications for higher education and institutional diversity.
In educational theory, there is a growing body of significant research that considers the role of architecture and social-spatial dynamics on campuses. The evolution of the built and spatial organization of campuses elucidates the institutions' history, mission, intents, pedagogical ideals, and identity (Calvo-Sotelo, 2001; Edwards, 2000; Neuman, 2003; Temple, 2008). Accordingly to Dayton Reuter, "the campus is not just leftover spaces between buildings. It is, in fact, a series of designed spaces that reflect the value an institution wishes to be known for. It is a culturally dynamic complex landscape setting" (Neuman, 2003: 2). The application of geographical imagination discloses how ideologies, norms, and culture continuously construct citizenship, policies, and access within the trialectics of social, historical, and spatial considerations (Gulson & Symes, 2008; Kenway & Youndell, 2011; Samura, 2010). In particular, with disability and educational spaces, themes of representation (Siebers, 2003; Young, 2008; 2011), segregation (Gabel, Cohen, Kotel, & Pearson, 2013; Young, 2008; 2011), and inclusion (Bodaghi & Zainab, 2013; Dyment & Bell, 2008) emerge; however, further research into the socio-spatial relationship between the physical surroundings and occupiers of higher education is needed (Samura, 2010).
In contrast, a significant body of literature stemming from Marxist geographers emerged during the 1970s to rectify the marginalization of geography and space, in particular, with social theories and their tendencies to privilege social and temporal processes and relations. Focusing solely on the socio-historical processes and relations, Western social theories consider space in the linear context of how social processes shape geography. As Soja (1989; 1996; 2010) notes, there is no deliberation of geography's role in shaping, perpetuating, or maintaining social processes. However, according to Soja (1980; 1989; 2010), the marginalization of geographical structures is unintentional as the dominant positivist hegemony of geography views space as a neutral material backdrop. Nevertheless, the reassertion of geography into the social-historical relationship proposes space "is not an empty void. It is always filled with politics, ideology and other forces shaping our lives and challenging us to engage in struggles over geography" (Soja, 2010: 19). Intersecting social and historical relationships with space, as fluid, historical, contested, and stratified, offers access and alternative approaches to the intricacy of social processes. Thus, as Said (1993: 7) notes, "That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images, and imaginings."
Expanding upon the application of the geographical imagination, this article uses empirical research from a study that explores the socio-spatial lived experiences of racial and ethnic minorities with disabilities in higher education (Pearson, 2016). Soja's (1989; 1996; 2010) work on the trialectics of space, social, and historical relationships presents a framework to explore the entwined dialectics between space, disability, and intersectionality. In addressing institutional diversity, citizenship, and access, this article argues that the empirical study's utilization of arts-based methodologies enables access to the nuances of everyday spatiality. In particular, photovoice and photo elicitation illustrates the dynamics of interpretation and perception in the contested construction of their identities and surroundings. Thus, arts-based methodologies are spatial tools to access a deeper understanding and emancipative ownership among the users on campuses, especially with populations who are vulnerable to marginalization, inequity, and segregation.
Spatial Disabled Embodiment in Trialectics
Building upon Henri Lefebvre's and Michel Foucault's theorization of space, Soja (1989; 1996; 2010) instigates the argument for triple dialectics. His argument draws upon numerous critiques. In particular, feminist geographers criticize the absence of difference (race, class, and gender), power, and identity. In response, Soja (1996) expands his argument to include the politics of class, race, and gender by drawing upon multiple works in feminism studies, postcolonial studies, and feminist geography (e.g., bell hooks, Edward Said, Gillian Rose, Gloria Anzaldua, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi K. Bhabha). Nonetheless, in his work, the absence of disability persists.
Alternatively, as the forerunner, the field of Disability Studies demonstrates the importance of engaging with disability theoretically, pedagogically, and empirically (Goodley, 2010). Prior to the 1990s, the fields of rehabilitation, medicine, psychology, special education, and social work define and perpetuate the dominant ideologies of disability as a form of impairment, deviation, or medical condition that needs to be fixed/cured, or a personal tragedy (Barnes, Mercer, & Shakespeare, 1999; Davis, 1995; Goodley, 2010; Johnstone, 2001; Michalko, 2002). In response, disabled activists and scholars counter by stating that disability is a social, structural, and institutional construct (Barnes et al., 1999; Ferguson & Nusbaum, 2012; Oliver, 1996a). Viewing disability as a social construction presents alternative ways of understanding how institutions (e.g., policy, politics, economy, history, education, and culture) wield considerable influence over the meaning and representation of disability (Barnes et al., 1999; Davis, 1995; Gabel, 2005; Johnstone, 2001; Michalko, 2002; Titchkosky, 2006). Shifting away from an individual concept of disability provides the grounds to unite and collectively move towards social structural changes with regard to citizenship rights, equal opportunities, inclusion, and social justice (Barnes & Mercer, 2010; Finkelstein, 1996; 2002; Johnstone, 2001; Oliver, 1986).
Furthermore, after 1990s, a significant yet marginalized body of literature competes for critical consideration of space and disability. Geographical imagination demonstrates how spaces of disability embody social, cultural, political, historical, economical, and citizenship implications for individuals with disabilities. As a "productive occupant of space" (Lefebvre, 1991: 162), the disabled body is an embodiment of social and cultural ideologies that needs to be spatially contained (Freund, 2001; Gleeson, 1999; Imrie, 1996; 2000). Disability is spatially controlled by the implementation of design apartheid that structures a society where disabled bodies cannot venture beyond the edges of containment (Imrie, 1996; Imrie & Kumar, 1998; Kitchin, 1998; 2000).
The numerous formations of spatial constraints such as absence of a ramp, cracked sidewalks, no visual cues, or inaccessible bathrooms clearly convey how disabled bodies are not welcome (Armstrong, 1999; Blackman et al., 2010; Imrie, 2001; Kitchin, 1998; Kitchin & Law, 2001). Relocating accessible ramps to the back of the building or placing large decorative rocks in front of handicapped parking reinforces the presence of disability as not spatially desirable (Siebers, 2003). In particular, with asylums, as a form of antidote, the built environment has a role in eradicating undesirable characteristics. However, the built environment is not the only form of spatial control, as everyday behavioral cues such as stares, looks, or derogatory language also uphold the hegemonic notions of disability (Butler & Bowbly, 1997; Hall 2005; Hine & Michell, 2001; Vujakovic & Matthews, 1994). Spatializing disability highlights how spaces organize different abilities through policies, building regulations, planning practices, ideologies, and symbolism (Imrie 1996; 2001; Titchkosky, 2011).
Consideration of Intersectionality in Spatiality
In response to the hegemony of materialist and socio-economical-political frameworks in the spaces and disability literature, feminist disabled geographers address the significance of everyday lived experiences, in particular, the intersection of gender and disability. The adaption of an intersectional lens further disrupts the dominant narrative of disability as merely a medical condition that has no implication for social structures (Crooks & Chouinard, 2006; Dyck, 1995; Gleeson, 1999; Hawkesworth, 2001). The negotiation between one's gender and disability identity highlights the fluidity in the two constructs as one engages or redefines their surroundings (Dyck, 1995; Kruse, 2002; 2003; Moss, 1997; Wilton, 1996). The intersections of social differences illustrate how individuals "are already spatially positioned and marked by differences of gender, race, and class" in both public and private spaces (Kruse, 2003: 500). According to Dear, Wilton, Gaber, and Takahaski (1997), understanding how a body occupies a space and how the landscape constrains or facilitates its occupation reveals how spatial boundaries maintain the stratification of differences.
Through the contributions of the feminist disabled geographers, they illustrate the need for further empirical research on the intersections of social differences from spatial lens. Further considerations of spatiality outside of the field of geography, in this case, in higher education research are needed. According to Soja (1996), the absence of a transdisciplinary approach means one runs the risk of myopia, where one only sees what is right in front of them. In particular with feminist geographers, Soja (1996; 1999) argues that focusing on the spatiality of hegemonic masculine society and patriarchal power limits the boundaries of geographical imagination. Instead, a transdisciplinary approach, which emphasizes pulling together different perspectives rather than fragmentizing knowledge, is the key to structuring a holistic and fluid analysis of a social phenomenon (Soja, 1996). As a means of "capturing" a holistic and fluid understanding, arts-based visual methodologies are needed. Similarly, there is limited empirical research that utilizes arts-based methodologies to explore the spatiality of everyday experiences.
Shifting Towards Diverse Ways of Knowing, Engaging, and Representing
Generally speaking, the research traditions stem from two camps: quantitative and qualitative. Drawing upon a positivist orientation, quantitative research accentuates objectivity, casual relationships, and statistical significance (Leavy, 2009; Oliver, 1992; Sullivan, 2005). This emphasis originates from the positivism contention that there is an objective reality that can be systematically measured and analyzed (Banks, 2008; Paul, Kleinhammer-Tramill, & Fowler, 2009). Alternatively, qualitative research draws upon the paradigms of post-modernism and post-structuralism, which emphasizes lived experiences, different ways of knowing, reflexivity/subjectivity, and co-constructing reality and meaning in research (Cresswell, 2007; Leavy, 2009; Paul, Kleinhammer-Tramill, & Fowler, 2009; Sullivan, 2005). Emerging in the 1990s, arts-based research presents a process of engaging with qualitative research through the practices of the arts (Barone & Eisner, 2012; Leavy, 2009; Osei-Kofi, 2013). As Savin-Baden and Wimpenny (2014: 1) stated: "Arts-related research is defined here as research that uses the arts, in the broadest sense, to explore, understand, and represent human action and experience. It has emerged as a concept and practice from the interaction between art and social science."
Arts-based research utilizes different artistic processes at different stages (e.g., research design, data collection, and/or representation). These artistic processes can include music, ethnodrama, visual arts, collages, drawings, comics, poetry, performance, and documentaries (Barone & Eisner, 2012; Leavy, 2009; McNiff, 2008; Savin-Baden & Wimpenny, 2014). As Leavy (2009: 12) states, "Arts-based practices are particularly useful for research projects that aim to describe, explore, or discover. Furthermore, these methods are generally attentive to processes."
The emphasis on the process implies a sense of moral commitment as arts-based research is not only about challenging the status quo, but also about being open and mindful to different ways of knowing and engagement (Leavy, 2009, Osei-Kofi, 2013; Savin-Baden & Wimpenny, 2014). "Arts-related research recognized there was no monopoly on ways to inquire. Arts-related research recognized what counted as knowledge depended on perspective, time, interest, and forms of representation" (Savin-Baden & Wimpenny, 2014: 19). Furthermore, drawing upon arts-based practices enables accessibility for the researcher and the audience to the voices and lived experiences through multiple dimensions: textual, oral, and visual (Barone & Eisner, 2012; Chappell & Cahnmann-Taylor, 2013; Eisner, 2008; Leavy, 2009; Osei-Kofi, 2013; Pinar, 2004). Arts-based research is not only about challenging and transforming social structures, but also about finding ways for the audience to understand and relate to the different ways of knowing and engaging (Savin-Baden & Wimpenny, 2014). Therefore, research can be an act of collaborative and transformative resistance (Osei-Kofi, 2013).
The authentic and transformative ideologies behind arts-based research correspond with emancipatory disability approach to conducting research with the disability population. Presently, research continues to be contested since individuals with disabilities are treated as objects of research rather than as individuals, which contributes to the marginalization of their lived experiences and the absence of their voices. Furthermore, the research contributions benefit the researcher's agendas rather than policy, citizenship, and inclusive changes for individuals with disabilities (Barnes & Mercer, 2010; Johnstone, 2001; Morris 1992). In response, emancipatory disability research contends that disability research must be a collaborative matter between researchers and individuals with disabilities while addressing oppression, citizenship rights, in/accessibility, and inclusion (Manning, 2009; Oliver, 1992). Therefore, research must be with rather than on those with disabilities (Oliver, 1992), as this fosters empowerment, liberation, and ownership in the narratives of those with disabilities (Morris, 1992; Oliver, 1992; Ripat & Woodgate, 2011).
As a means of disrupting the long history of objectifying those with disabilities, arts-based research presents alternative ways of accessing the stories in a collaborative manner that allows the participants greater control over how they approach and present their experiences. Furthermore, utilizing multiple formats (e.g., textual, oral, and visual) enables greater accessibility as the participants share their lived experiences with themselves, the researcher, and the audiences. In this context, accessibility is not solely about an audience being able to read or see the work, but they, themselves, are able to understand and relate to the lived experiences (Savin-Baden & Wimpenny, 2014). This is a critical point due to the dominant hegemonic climate around disability as an individualized, medicalized, and pathological condition. Utilizing multiple formats increases the chance of the audience understanding the significance of approaching disability as a political, historical, cultural, economical, and social construct when considering social justice and social change.
The Potential of Visual Approaches' Role in Spatial Justice
The "voices" of racial and ethnic minorities with disabilities encapsulate the potential of arts-based methodologies in facilitating social-spatial justice in higher education.
This study is part of a broader study on racial and ethnic minorities with disabilities, and how they negotiate identities and spaces in higher education (Pearson, 2016). In this paper, I employ photovoice and photo elicitation, an arts-based visual methodology. This process is discussed thoroughly in another manuscript (Pearson, 2016). Briefly, through images and verbal expression, 16 students share their experiences on campus. Using arts-based visual methodologies, in particular, photo voice and photo elicitation, not only enables the students to construct their realities (Clark-Ibanez, 2007; Harper, 2002; Johnson, 2008; Lapenta, 2011; Mitchell, 2011), but also to share their observations about the social-spatial dynamics between identities and space(s). While the camera is a method of capturing images that preserve a static moment, the dialogue around the images is pivotal as it presents access to one's biography, worldview, biases, intentions, and interpretations (Banks, 1998; Collier & Collier, 1986; Harper, 2002; Margolis, 1990; Mitchell, 2011; Pink, 2013; Weber, 2008).
The hybridism of image and dialogue offers a rich analysis into the significance of socio-spatiality in higher education, in particular, among marginalized populations. However, grasping the significance of the dynamics between space(s) and identities necessitates methodologies that embody holistic, complex, and integrated approaches (Barone & Eisner, 2012; Leavy, 2009). Arts-based methodologies reflect how methods are not neutral, but rather, tools to carve out alternative worldviews (Leavy, 2009; Osei-Kofi, 2013). This raises the question of the role of arts-based methodologies, in particular, visual approaches in addressing social-spatial justice. Interweaving the narratives, the students share how the socio-spatial relationship of self and campus spaces influence their experiences and perceptions of self; thus, offering a multi-dimensional understanding of institutions of higher education. The institutions, offices, and individual names are exchanged with pseudonyms to ensure confidentiality. As mentioned previously, this study is part of a broader study (Pearson, 2016); therefore, not all of the lived experiences are represented. To access the diversity among the individuals, their lived experiences are available in another manuscript (Pearson, 2016).
Nuances of Spatiality
As a catalyst for facilitating institutional diversity, arts-based methodologies provide an intimate insight into who the users are on campus. Together, through visual and oral forms of expression, an image transitions from a static 2D record to a fluid 3D narrative of the negotiation of perception and interpretation in everyday spaces (Collier & Collier, 1986). Showing an image of his bedroom, Troy notes his bedroom is a calming place where he can relax and be in the moment. From the head of the bed to the left along the white wall there are three hanging lanyards, a framed poster, and two jerseys. On the wall that is closest to the foot of the bed, there is another poster with various characters. To the right of that poster is the doorframe.
Upon inquiring about the artifacts, Troy explains the background behind the various relics.
"I've started collecting lanyards lately... I have a lot more at my house. This poster right here is actually a signed poster by Mark Wahlberg. Me and my roommate... We're extras in the movie, so we're hoping that we can see [it] when it comes out. If we can pause it on one spot, and be like, 'There we are, right there.' We'll be so happy. Our lives will be made. There was a drawing, and they pulled my ticket, so I won that. I thought that was kind of cool. Those two jerseys, one's a Miami Heat jersey, the one's a Houston Rockets jersey. Those are two of my favorite players, One's Shaquille O'Neal, and one is Tracy McGrady... When I started playing basketball as a kid, I really got into basketball. When we went to the store one time, and my dad's like, 'You want a jersey, or something like that?' They were buy one, get one half off... I got those two, because those are two of my favorite players. They kind of inspired me for basketball. Kept me going on that ramp for a while. Straight ahead, on that wall right there, that's actually a poster I've had for a long time. That's a Pokemon poster. It's the first series of Pokemon, one through one fifty... I don't know, me and my brother really got into Pokemon when we were kids. Our parents, now that we're older, they'll tell us, 'Yeah, we hated it. It was so annoying.' It was so cool, though. We still think that. It's still pretty cool, it's just the original. It's just something nice that I like to have, just fun... Things that kind of share something in an aspect of my life, I guess."
Revisiting the artifacts build a webbing of temporal moments that leads to a deeper understanding into the intrinsic nuances of his background that shape who he is today. This reflects the significant insight that spatial intimacy, usually inaccessible, has to offer when considering the diversity among the users of the campus.
The ordinariness of everyday mundane actions also reveals insights that are often taken for granted or not considered in the first place. As he illustrates his gender identity, Win captures an image of him in the act of walking. There is a black shoe in the bottom right corner. The ground appeared to be of a grey stone quality with two yellow vertical parallel stripes.
For him, his day to day routine consists of traveling from one location to the next, whether it is to and from class, internships, dorm, library, or cafeteria. Walking is when Win thinks about his gender. He views walking as being proactive, to be independent.
"Walking around, doing everything... on my own. It really means a lot to me because my parents never really did anything for me. They gave me up when I was 2 years old, so I feel like I've been always walking this road, this hard road where it's never been really easy. It makes me into a stronger individual... I consider myself a man because I had to become independent, worked hard, and nobody really taught me to do that. I had to learn on my own."
Using the act of walking as a metaphor to symbolize what it means to be an independent man enables a powerful visual and emotional understanding of how an accumulation of moments contributed to his present self-perception. Together, images and dialogue illuminate how they can broaden our understanding of the students' everyday lives.
A Dance between Identities and Spaces
Visual and oral narratives illustrate how built and social structures influence their everyday experiences on campus, and in turn, how they construct the meanings of those particular spaces. When considering in/accessibility, Wanda expresses frustration due to being unable to access her department. An image of a concrete staircase leading up to the front entrance embodies her exasperation. "This! This bugs the hell out of me. These stupid stairs. I feel like I'm paying enough in tuition that they should have an elevator. It's too expensive for me to be going here and not have access."
While it is important to draw attention to incidents of inaccessibility, the socio-spatial lens reveals how entwined our experiences are with our surroundings. For Wanda, inaccessibility is a contributing factor in the saliency of her disability, not occasionally, but on a continuous basis. "It's such a significant disability that everything I try to do, I have to think about ways of accommodating my disability. Even if I lie down with a book at night and read in my spare time, I have to think about accessibility issues."
While considering the built surrounding's influences on everyday experiences, it is as important to caution against assuming a linear relationship as it is important to consider that the students are agents themselves. As a change agent, Wanda approached the institution's president about the inaccessibility issues. However, the exchange did not go favorably for Wanda. "The president blew me off. The president was on his way to a meeting and I stopped him and he just said, 'Well there's plans to build an elevator in a couple of years.' He just blew me off and went to his meeting." The unfavorable interactions and physical inaccessibility result in Wanda locating alternative locations of comfort and accessibility as an act of spatial resistance.
The notion of in/accessibility does not reside solely with physical contestation as tension manifests emotionally, symbolically, socially, and psychologically. In particular with her biracial identity, the Diversity Office is a location of tension for Hilda. In this space, Hilda becomes hyperaware of the contrast between how she perceives herself and how others perceive her. "It's not a bad thing. I just become very aware of how I look and how I am defined racially, because race as a social construct is how people see you versus how I define myself. It's always going to be white when they see me and Mexican if you ask me."
While the Diversity Office is a designated space for marginalized groups, she does not feel welcome in this space due to others perceiving her as not being Mexican because of her outer appearance. "[W]hen I come here or when I leave my town, I'm white because white is what you see. I feel like it'd be awkward if I tried to join one of the Hispanic clubs there because I don't look like I belong there... I don't want to have to deal with that so I just don't go."
Therefore, in Hilda's case, the Diversity Office makes her hyperaware of her biracial identity. Similar to Wanda, Hilda's response is to relocate to spaces of acceptance.
In locations of acceptance, certain identities no longer appear to be pressing. Among his former foster youth peers, Win notes both his race and disability do not matter.
"I feel like in that community, it doesn't matter for me. With them, I'm able to think about my disability identity and my racial identity but it doesn't really matter to us.... There's a certain amount of understanding that we have for each other because it's like he's a white kid but he didn't have parents or that kid was Asian but he didn't have parents. That kid was black, [and] he didn't have parents. That's the main thing that makes us very similar is that we all know that we didn't have parents, and that's what makes us bond."
There is this shared sense of camaraderie of "Hey, man, we made it. We didn't end up in prison for the rest of our lives. We didn't end up dead. We didn't up at some weird street, poor for the rest of our lives. We're in college." Rather than capturing an image that represents an identity, Win uses an image of a tall concrete building behind a large fountain that has multiple water spots shooting up in the air to convey his emotions.
The lightness of the image along with the water shooting in the air presents a symbolic emotional sense of triumph and accomplishment that Win experiences as a former foster youth that managed to overcome all odds to attend and succeed in college.
While spatial organization is a critical factor, artifacts within those layouts also spin webs of connection such as a sports team jersey. In a testing center, there is a staff member who shares passion for the same sports team as Lizzy. Whenever she sees the individual wear the sports team jersey, Lizzy psychologically returns home. "It made me feel like home, although it's not home, it's like a home away from home." Therefore, the jersey not only represents a common interest, but also symbolizes home. "That reminds me [of] home, reminds me of Boston, reminds me of that feeling... smell of New England and of Boston baked beans, the Green Monster, and Fenway Park. When you can just go back in time and remember what makes you feel alive, those are the things that you want to remember. It's good to remember the things that make you happy, that make you feel good, that make you feel alive in life."
The webbing of built structures, social spaces, symbolic spaces, and representation demonstrates how these students are not merely disabled individuals. Instead, they are multidimensional individuals who come from all walks of life. Utilizing the socio-spatial lens offers a more holistic, intersectional, and fluid understanding of the interexchange of their identities, meaning, and surroundings.
Symbolism of Institutional Ideologies
While a micro understanding enables access into the nuances of the everyday experiences, macro level examinations reflect the importance of considering the spatial organization of the campus to gain insights into the ideologies and mission of the institution. When discussing where she frequently visits, Rachael shares how spatial layout of the campus reveals discourses of institutional diversity. In her day-to-day activities, Rachael may visit the following facilities: the Office of International Students, Disability Services, the Religious and Spiritual Center, and the Center of Holocaust. Each office is housed in a different location. The Religious and Spiritual Center and the Center of Holocaust are located on campus, while the Office of International Students and Disability Services are located off campus in separate locations. As multi-dimensional individuals, the question arises: what are implications of having these identity markers segregated across campus? Furthermore, what kinds of messages are being conveyed to the students in regards to identity, diversity, and intersectionality?
At another institution, this segregation persists. At University of Luminton, there appears to be a central part of campus for students' academic, work, and social needs. In an image of a walkway that is covered with various posters (e.g., Red Cross Club, an online course, and Bringing Liberty to North Korea), Hilda comments this particular area is useful for advertising identity related topics, as this is a high-volume traffic area.
As one is walking across the walkway, there is a "natural" slope towards the central area where the coffee shop, bookstore, bank, and food court are located. In this area, there is a Diversity Office, a Counseling Office, and an Academic Service Office. However, the Disability Service Office is located on the opposite side of campus- on the opposite side of campus, where, according to Hilda, students do not socialize or work due to the absence of collaboration spaces and places to obtain food and drinks. The displacement of the Disability Service Office underlines the embedded hidden curriculum about disability and diversity that needs to be critically reexamined.
As the students are multi-layered individuals, the institutions also include a diverse array of spaces and pathways. This raises the question: how do the diversity of spaces and pathways impact everyday experiences? When considering everyday routes, Noah views the campus as a layered sense of "You're always isolated, you're going different routes, [and] you're doing your own thing." To access a classroom, he uses a different entrance from his able-bodied peers, which serves as a constant reminder that his route is different and isolating. "You take this entrance, and then you go to the top. Then you have to take the ramp or you take the same elevator, go to the elevator, and you go up to the top. I've never found this elevator, but this door is always unlocked, if the door is locked, [then] go into the other building, [and] up the elevator, [to the] 2nd floor."
Not only are the pathways not clear, but also they are not welcoming either as seen in the image of a dimly lit concrete hallway.
He remarks that he feels the accessible entrance conveys a sense of afterthought towards those with disabilities. While the accessible entrances attempt to be discreet, an accessible desk is another story. "At UOL[classes] for some reason they always put these big, ugly desks that sets you apart from everybody, and you feel like a red M&Ms in a bowl of green M&Ms, you're like sticking out." Noah shares a picture of the classroom where a single stand-alone giant desk stands out in comparison to the rows of small desks.
In this case, the location did not matter as much as the absurd size of the desk as a symbolic marker of being different. Noah also has to detour if he wishes to access other parts of the campus. The campus's natural terrain involves a progress of hills, which means accessing other parts of campus involves using his car to access other side of campus. Thus, for him, the campus consists of layered pockets of isolation, "Throughout the years you go and you're separated, you're alone most of the time because you have to go through th[ese] little things." This raises the impact of these daily occurrences not only from an individual point of view, but how the institutions' ideologies and missions manifest physically, socially, symbolically, psychologically, and emotionally.
Returning to the Trialectics of Space, Disability and Intersectionality
Multiple fields (e.g., critical spatial studies, humanistic geography, environmental psychology, and architectural theory) have significantly contributed to the body of literature that reexamines and problematizes the notion of space as a contested and fluid social construct. As Titchkosky (2011: 92) noted, "Structures are neither static nor accidental but are, instead, social activities; they carry messages about collective conceptions of people and places, conceptions which themselves come into existence through such social structures and activities." For instance, if the design of a room has limited natural light entering into the space, one might interpret the room as feeling enclosed or claustrophobic. This reflects how space is never neutral, as the physical, social, and symbolic qualities of a location influence how one interprets the surroundings and how one creates the meaning of a place through the description of how one perceives the area (Creswell, 2004; Hornecker, 2005; Keith & Pile, 1993; Soja, 1989).
Building upon the theoretical interpretation of space as contested, fluid, historic, and stratified, scholars have considered the socio-spatial dynamic in different contexts (e.g., critical studies, postcolonial studies, and feminism) (Heynen & Wright, 2012; Hosagrahar, 2012; Rendell, 2012; Rothschild & Rosner, 1999; Sewell, 2011). Across these contexts, scholars have considered how power and social differences manifest and are reinforced within the built, social, and symbolic spaces (Heynen & Wright, 2012; Kusno, 2012). As noted previously, further engagement with disability is needed; therefore, in response, multiple scholars (e.g., Boys, 2014; Golledge, 1990; 1991; Gleeson, 1996; Hahn, 1986; Imrie, 1996; 2000) have theorized and presented empirical insights about how social and physical barriers disable individuals, and how spaces construct and perpetuate hegemonic notions about disability from different considerations (e.g., accessibility planning, public transportation, mobility, employment, housing, and education, mapping and navigation, asylum, medical, and mental health institutions, and everyday socio-spatial experiences) (Gleeson, 1996; Hall & Kearns, 2001; Kitchin, 2000; Vujakovic & Matthews, 1994).
Understanding how spaces exclude individuals with disabilities, both intentionally and unintentionally, through the containment of disability to certain locations (e.g., nursing homes, institutions, asylums, or the placement of an accessible ramp in the back of a building) convey insights about the dominant hegemonies of disability as something undesirable, pathological, or medical. As Siebers (2003: 201) notes, "The built environment maintains a spatial caste system at the expense of people with disabilities. This caste system not only targets individual disabled bodies for exclusion but also rejects any form of appearance that symbolizes disability." Encountering layered and daily incidents of inaccessibility, whether it is the absence of braille markers, curb cuts, or closed captions, usage of fluorescents lights, inability to enter into a facility, or encountering stares, looks, and derogatory language conveys ongoing strong verbal and nonverbal messages towards individuals with disabilities that not only is this society not built for them, but they are unwelcomed second-class citizens (Blackman et al., 2010; Imrie, 2001; Kitchen & Law, 2001; Sibley, 1995; Vujakovic & Matthews, 1994). Their engagement with hostile and inaccessible spaces reflects how the built environment is a social and cultural construct.
While this research provides much needed theoretical and empirical research on the socio-spatiality of disability, the context is situated around physical and sensory disabilities. To rectify this, scholars explore the everyday processes of negotiating disability, particularly with invisible or not readily apparent disabilities (e.g., HIV, intellectual disabilities, mental illness, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia) to bring in alternative perspectives. Similarly, disabled feminist geographers highlight the dearth of research that utilize an intersectionality lens when considering the experiences of individuals with disabilities due to the recognition that these people are not merely disabled, but are also gendered, racial, and sexual beings (Crooks & Chouinard, 2006; Dyck, 1995; Hawkesworth, 2001). As Kruse (2003) notes, bodies are already spatially situated in public and private places according to social differences. Utilizing a socio-spatial lens not only offers insights into how spaces influence the meaning of disability, but also provides access to a deeper understanding of the contrasting roles and cultural norms that are negotiated based on the embodiment of multiple identities (Chouinard, 1999; Dyck, 1995; Kruse, 2003).
Building upon the work of disabled feminist geographers, this study focuses on how individuals with disabilities negotiate their identities and spaces on campus, and how identities and spaces influence, perpetuate, and uphold each other's meanings from an intersectional socio-spatial lens. Similarly, the students demonstrate they are not merely individuals with disabilities, but instead they embody multiple identities (e.g., multiethnic, female, mom, athlete, brother, sister, heterosexual, pessimistic, ADHD, local, or foreigner). They illustrate the diversity within disability experience as their identities intersect or interexchange with one another. Therefore, disability identity is not easily isolated, as its meaning is greatly influenced by other embodied social differences (e.g., race, class, gender, sexuality) and space(s).
Furthermore, as reflected in previous research, entwining intersectionality and the socio-spatial lens reflects how the dynamic between identities and spatiality is not a predetermined linear process but instead is in constant flux (Dyck, 1995; Hawkesworth, 2001). In this study, the students illustrate how institutions consist of a multitude of spaces, with the meanings of each of those spaces in flux due to the diverse array of users on campus. Together, the socio-spatial dynamic between disability, intersectionality, and spaces acknowledges the urgency for further transdisciplinary approaches, especially when addressing institutional diversity, accessibility, inclusion, and socio-spatial justice. When considering the needs of racial and ethnic minorities with disabilities, theoretically and empirically, institutions of higher education need to adapt approaches that draw upon diverse perspectives to gain a more holistic, layered, and fluid understanding in order expand their geographical imagination and move towards a more social and spatial justice orientation across campuses.
Through their worldviews, the students illuminate the significance and power of arts-based visual research in advancing geographical imagination, spatial consciousness, and socio-spatial justice, in higher education in particular. According to Soja (2010), developing a spatial consciousness is vital in moving towards democratic spatial justice and action. Broadening spatial consciousness includes considering how arts-based visual methodologies can bring attention to the presence and significance of spatiality in our everyday lives. Arts-based visual approaches highlight the symbolic interactional process and how meaning is constructed and influenced by temporal, spatial, and cultural contexts (Banks, 2008; Leavy, 2009; Mitchell, 2011; Pink 2013). As Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis (1997: xv) note, entwining "the boundaries of aesthetics and empiricism enabled a means to capture the complexity, dynamics and subtlety of human experience and organizational life." Intersecting arts-based visual research and geographical imagination displays the experiential dynamics of spatiality through our senses (e.g., sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) (Bachelard, 1994; Pallasmaa, 2005; 2006; 2012; Zumthor, 2006; 2010).
While arts-based visual methodologies present a means of developing a critical spatial consciousness, there is a need to ensure individuals are part of the process rather than being objectified. Emancipatory disability research contests the oppressive nature of research, particularly with the disability population. To disrupt the long history of conducting research on individuals with disabilities, scholars contend research needs to be a collaborative and empowering relationship between researchers and individuals with disabilities while challenging philosophical and structural oppressions (Barnes & Mercer, 2010; Oliver, 1992).
In this arts-based visual research study, photovoice and photo elicitation are particularly beneficial as the students are able to present a fluid, complex, layered, and holistic understanding of themselves and their social realities. These two arts-based visual approaches also enable the students to capture and share their images, allowing them to be part of the process of constructing their stories. To move towards spatial justice, there is an ethical responsibility to ensure "accessibility " or to structure spaces where marginalized populations have active roles in the research process. Accessibility also indicates respect for different ways of knowing and engaging, hence, structuring spaces that not only respect but also adapt according to how the participants come to understand self and society, and how they convey their experiences whether through textual, visual, oral, or alternative means.
While this study offers intricate socio-spatial insights into the narratives of 16 students who are currently pursuing their educational aspirations, their lived experiences are not and were never intended to be representative of all marginalized populations, especially for those who identify as racial and ethnic minorities with disabilities. And while the findings cannot be generalized due to the small sample size of 16 students and 3 institutions, this research is not only a qualitative study, but an arts-based visual study. In the process of seeking out and representing a myriad of narratives, qualitative research emphasizes that the research process must be credible and rigorous (Cresswell, 2007; Harrison, MacGibbon, & Morton, 2001; Moss, 2004; Rossman & Rallis, 2012). Rigorous research involves intersecting multiple factors (e.g., multiple methods, conceptual framework, triangulation, prolonged engagement, member checks, peer debriefing, and community of practice) (Cresswell. 2007; Ferguson & Ferguson, 2000; Harrison, MacGibbon, & Morton, 2001; Moss, 2004). Credibility stems from rigor and the audiences' confidence in a project's integrity (Rossman & Rallis, 2012).
Arts-based research also embodies similar criteria of credibility and trustworthiness (Barone & Eisner, 2012). Speaking generally, credibility and trustworthiness stem from arts-based research that is able to highlight and integrate key points of research while offering an alternative lens in an accessible manner, where the audience can identify and relate to the phenomena (Barone & Eisner, 2012; Eisner, 2008; Leavy 2009; McNiff, 2008). This approach also emphasizes a flexible framework that allows different forms of engagement and to disrupt what constitutes research (Ferguson & Ferguson, 2000; Harrison, MacGibbon, & Morton, 2001). However, in arts-based research, there is a greater emphasis on authenticity, where "the work and research must be intertwined and mutually shaping so there is a sense of integrity about the art and the research" (Savin-Baden & Wimpenny, 2014, 2); therefore, consistency and trustworthiness are defined by the dynamic between research and art during the process.
For this socio-spatial study, the hybridism between textual, visual, and oral allows a layered understanding of the world of 16 students who identify as racial and ethnic minorities with disabilities. Utilizing a mix of multiple medias (e.g., interviews, poetry, drawings, and photographs) presents a multi-dimensional understanding of the spatiality of diversity on higher education campuses. As the students illustrate the problematic realities of being reduced to a singular identity, the socio-spatial dynamic between identities and spaces, and the embedded ideologies within higher education spaces became evident through the layered processes of textual, visual, and oral means. Together, the different mediums allow for access to these subtle nuances on an everyday scale and on an institutional level.
Furthermore, using a hybrid approach allows the researcher a deeper, layered understanding of the students' worldviews in comparison to a singular format such as analyzing photographs in isolation or using photographs taken by the researcher to facilitate an interview process with the participants. By having them write, capture, and discuss their own images, they not only share their own experiences but are able to also reflect upon and add more to the "portrait" of their world. Similarly, by constructing found poetry from the interview transcripts, the researcher gains a fluid understanding of how the participants' identities are entwined and their meaning. Together, arts and research, particularly with this marginalized population, presents grounds for further research considerations including the need to examine the significance of spatiality in higher education, especially when considering and addressing institutional diversity. Furthermore, arts-based visual approaches can play a role in not only generating understanding but moving towards policy and institutional changes, and alternative ways of including, engaging, and representing disability, space, and intersectionality.
Through the framework of arts-based approaches, the trialectics of space, disability, and intersectionality present an unfinished framework of socio-spatial narratives of racial and ethnic minorities with disabilities in higher education. Through their narratives, the participants illustrate the diversity within their backgrounds as they negotiate everyday experiences as a person with ADD, dyslexia, and learning disabilities, a son, a veteran, a former foster youth, a mother, an international student, and/or as biracial. Essentially, they reflect how disability is heterogeneous as individuals come from all different walks of life. As they enter into the domain of higher education, they demonstrate that they cannot be reduced to one construct (e.g., disability, race, gender, sexuality, class, etc.). This is evident as they share how they continuously navigate and negotiate their multiple identities in myriad everyday campus spaces.
Together, through a hybrid of images, text, and oral expression, they illustrate how the landscape of higher education is not a backdrop. Instead, higher education embodies a multitude of built, social, and symbolic spaces whose meanings are in a constant state of flux and contestation by its users (e.g., students, professors, staff, administrators, and board of trustees). The students reflect how the most ordinary spaces (e.g., gym, study room, classroom, open space, parking garage, and etc.) can impact and be impacted by their users. Hand in hand, geographical imagination, through the lens of arts-based approaches, demonstrates how space, geography, and the individual impact one another on both a micro and macro level. Developing a spatial consciousness enables us to not only broaden and extend our understanding, but also to grasp the complexity within the socio-spatial dynamic (Soja, 2010). To ignore or construct space as fixed, external, or neutral is to place a rein around our imaginations and movement towards more holistic and complex forms of justice (Soja, 2010).
Broadening and deepening our spatial imagination reflects a need for ongoing transdisciplinary theoretical and empirical engagement. In the context of addressing institutional diversity in higher education, there is a need for greater collaboration with not only the marginalized populations, but also with the additional users (e.g., faculty, staff, administrators, and board of trustees) and all spaces (e.g., physical, social, symbolic, and digital). This is critical as campuses consist of multiple layers of independent yet interconnected components that construct the meaning of the institution itself. Lastly, as a transdisciplinary approach is a crucial component in moving toward holistic and complex forms of justice(s), similarly there is a need to consider and to experiment with different ways of interacting and acknowledging different forms of knowledge and engagement, especially in the context of spatiality and institutional diversity in higher education.
There is no potential conflict of interest for this research.
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Holly Pearson earned her doctorate in Education with an emphasis in Disability Studies from Chapman University. Her research focuses on critical spatial studies, architectural theory, disability studies, intersectionality, diversity, arts-based inquiries, and spatial and institutional experiences of students in post-secondary institutions. Her work has appeared in the following journals: Disability Studies Quarterly, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, and Equity & Excellence in Education.
HOLLY E. PEARSON
Caption: Fig. 1 Gleaning subtle nuances from the bedroom's artifacts
Caption: Fig. 2 Defining oneself through everyday mundane acts
Caption: Fig. 3 Inaccessibility translating into everyday mundane saliency
Caption: Fig. 4 Location of liberation and community
Caption: Fig. 5 Where identities matter the most
Caption: Fig. 6 The implications of uninvited detouring
Caption: Fig. 7 The marker of difference
Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright prestrictions.
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|Author:||Pearson, Holly E.|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2017|
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