Facilitating Dialogue and Empathic Listening in Intercultural Contexts: Theatre for Living as an Elicitive Approach

My thesis investigates the following research question: how can Theatre for Living (TfL) and the process of improvisation be used to facilitate empathic communication in intercultural contexts? I explore this question through the lenses of transrational philosophy, particularly transpersonal psychology, and combine these with a postcolonial gender/power perspective. While maintaining a critical inquiry into questions of identity, difference, and belonging in the Canadian context, the thesis explores the improvisational aspects at play in TfL, for instance: active listening, intuition, authenticity, vulnerability and curiosity. I ask: how do these elicit a critical awareness of identities, self-other relationships, and ultimately nurture trust, empathic communication, and a willingness to struggle with contradictions and uncertainty?

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Living between and within different cultures in my personal sphere of relationships and through my experience working with immigrants to Canada in a francophone minority context, I often faced the complexities of balancing different paradoxes. These include the needs for cultural preservation and openness to change as well as integrating perspectives to form unity while sustaining unique differences. These paradoxes among others are common in cosmopolitan contexts that value diversity and inclusion yet, simultaneously, feel as though there is a central aspect of cultural identity at threat in maintaining these values. Through this research process, I became motivated to explore these issues through TfL with immigrant, refugee and First Nations youth in my hometown.

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