An alternative gathering: public space and shared agency in the lived experience of multicultural Ireland
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The overarching aim of this thesis is to understand the palette of complex ways in which a diverse community in Ireland responds to its challenges. This research, therefore, offers important insights into novel approaches to the challenges presented in Doughiska, Roscam and Ardaun's changing social and cultural landscape. This is an exploration of change itself, how individuals responded and, in turn, shape further change, especially in relation to experiences of social dislocation. This work is not based on a large sample of multiple accounts, but explores how a few groups of people came together to explore diversity and difference. In so doing, extremely important insights are gained that may be relevant within a larger context. Apart from elevating the role of public places in the community-building puzzle, the important insights that grew out of this research are concerned with methods for critical inquiry and practice. It explores novel approaches to community gathering that utilise the power of group methodologies to create psychological and emotional spaces for dialogue, and echoes Block's (Block 2008:75) argument, that every gathering needs to be an example of the future we want to create. Furthermore, this research explores creative methods for action research. A form of ethnography that uses the craft of performance, is place-based (utilising local historical narratives) and uses various creative methods for cultural exchange and dialogue (group methodologies) is developed. This approach challenged social constructions that constrain expression and provided space for the renegotiation of values, attitudes and conventions through critical education and creative dialogue. Key to the success of such an approach is the use of the imagination (not least visioning, role playing, story-telling and performance) to both understand our sense of place and develop new cultural landscapes that reflect present day circumstances and needs. This process involves being engaged with the sequencing of community life over an extended period, while at the same time working creatively to discover new ways for change and potential to be realized.