Storytelling and community

Making the world: telling stories and building communities
We express, build, and sustain our collective identities—and our futures—with stories. Working with diverse global and local communities, our work explores how cultural practices envision their shared possibilities.

People tell stories all the time: with words, images, objects, in performances, on film, in social media, with what they wear, in songs, in everyday exchanges. 

As we do so, we make sense of our world, and we forge shared senses of being and of possibility. We understand what we have been, express who we are, and we consider what we might be in the future.

Our researchers work in and with diverse communities—artistic, literary, media, scientific, subcultural and everyday groups—to understand the hows and whys of the processes with which people make sense of their worlds.  

We use a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, looking at texts and practices, applying methodologies of fieldwork, critical analysis, computational social science, experiments with form and creative practice, among others. We ask: who gets to tell stories? How is story-telling itself a site of struggle as communities seek to forge their identities, to include and to exclude, to negotiate questions of social justice, access, and equity, and to make the future?

Our research informs policy and practice across a range of sectors, from government to industry, to training, and throughout the arts sector.

Our current areas of focus include: 

  • investigating how regional museums and galleries, through exhibitions, public programming and other approaches are supporting communities through times of crisis.
  • understanding how certain voices and interests come to dominate the media, and how digital disruption supports alternative narratives;
  • researching how bodies of literature address ideas of inclusion and exclusion and relate to wider contexts, such as history and politics; 
  • working with incarcerated men to understand how creative practice inside prisons make a difference in the lives of the incarcerated, in the institutional culture of prisons, and in the communities to which these men return?
  • exploring and supporting storytelling with diverse groups, including refugees and cultural workers from around the world;
  • understanding how communities of artists develop their work collaboratively, and through negotiations with historical and international traditions, as well as their immediate contexts;
  • developing and supporting community-based arts practice to support resilience in the face of, and to find creative solutions to health, environmental, and economic challenges.

Image: Mahdi Mohammadi, Bibi Goul Mossavi and Jawad Yaqoubi. Publicity still for Dorr-e Dari: A Poetic Crash Course in the Language of Love. A PYT Fairfield production, directed by SACE academic Dr Paul Dwyer and premiered at the 2021 Sydney Festival. Photo credit: Anna Kucera.

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