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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

‘Critical Visual Arts Education’ A Pedagogy of Conflict Transformation In Search of the ‘Moral Imagination’

Johnston, John (2018) ‘Critical Visual Arts Education’ A Pedagogy of Conflict Transformation In Search of the ‘Moral Imagination’. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


The following portfolio is representative of my own artistic practice that combines
the role of artist, educator, peace worker and researcher into one entity. The
works are drawn from a back catalogue of fifty plus collaborative arts projects that
has engaged with individuals and communities in different locations over the past
twenty years. These works have been delivered within formal and informal
educational settings. While each piece can be read as an individual artwork –
collectively they talk to common issues related to visual art practice, public
pedagogy and conflict transformation. I have identified four consistent themes
present in the work Social Justice, Human Rights, Development Education,
Democratic Education, Inclusion and Identity.
My practice can be described as a socially engaged art practice. However, while
I pay close attention to the aesthetics and artistic impression of my work, I place
a primary importance on education by asking a simple question which often
provides a myriad of highly complex answers. I ask - What is being learned?
I have worked with children, young people and others who live in the midst of
socio-political conflict or in societies affected by underdevelopment. This
combination of experiences has enabled me to forge a deep understanding of the
role of identity politics in the construction of division and conflict. I have developed
what I choose to call a problem posing1 visual arts pedagogy that serves to
expose and undermine the conditions that sustain such divisions.
My work has uncovered an implicit interconnectivity among art practices, critical
pedagogy and the concepts and practices of conflict transformation. This
combination coupled with my experience in the field of peace building, has
enabled me to develop a unique pedagogical form that is responsive to the
context and needs of specific communities. Through the following commentary I
posit this pedagogy firmly within the general discourse of peace building.
The portfolio presents new knowledge that aims to inform innovative approaches
to the role of the visual arts in conflict transformation and ultimately lead toward

1 Problem posing – drawing on Paulo Freire (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed: a problem
posing pedagogy offers opportunities for learner and teacher to build a relationship based on
critical inquiry.
embedding such processes in the field of peace building and international

John Johnston PhD commentary June 18 Final Draft.pdf - Accepted Version

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More Information

Depositing User: Barry Hall


Item ID: 9661

Users with ORCIDS

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2018 12:38
Last Modified: 20 May 2019 12:15


Author: John Johnston

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries


Education > Educational Research
Fine Art

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