“Gentle Disruptions”: A Critical Reflection on Participatory Arts in Expanding the Language System for Meaningful Community Engagement Around Local Climate Adaptation

Antonia Liguori, Lindsey McEwen, Karen Le Rossignol, Sharron Kraus, Michael Wilson

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Abstract

This paper proposes a critical reflection on the use of language to address the challenge of promoting and supporting civic agencies in adaptation to increasing extreme weather risk. Such reflection needs to focus on the opportunities and limitations of language, and the navigation amongst multiple or contested meanings within interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial collaborations. This commentary was inspired by the authors’ conversations on their journey in writing the paper — Liguori et al. (2023) “Exploring the uses of arts-led community spaces to build resilience: Applied storytelling for successful co-creative work” and the impact it had on their understanding of various language systems. Here writing was conceived as a form of networking, undertaking a sequence of intimate, in-depth discussions in a safe space. ‘Playing’ with words, moving out from our disciplinary homes, provided a fertile way of thinking within multi/inter-sectorial/disciplinary conversations to expand the language system for meaningful community engagement around local climate adaptation. Three key terms were at the core of these diverse — and sometimes divergent — ways of looking at social preparedness for extreme weather events: disruption, empowerment, and creative ecosystem. The meta-reflections, based on iterative conversations around these three key terms, highlight the importance of explorations of language as a generative meaning-making process that can be boundary-spanning.

There is significant value in understanding the implications of language used in public engagement — its different interpretations, their loading and potential for transformed thinking when conceived creatively. Such insight can contribute to more effective approaches for participatory research and practice working with communities when addressing issues related to climate adaptation. This commentary argues that the socially engaged or participatory arts are particularly well placed to be active in such processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2450001
JournalJournal of Extreme Events
Volume9
Issue number02n03
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2024

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