How to embed performative Theatre of the Oppressed in Higher Education systems

Alessandra Romano* (Corresponding Author), Education in the North

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article analyses the implications of the adoption of Theatre of the Oppressed as practice art-based methods in Higher Education programmes. The Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) is a form of popular and participatory theatre that fosters democratic and cooperative forms of interaction in order to sustain processes of personal and collective reflections (Boal, 1985, 1996). The epistemological framework underpinning TO relies on Freirian practices of transformative learning through the use of the ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’ (Freire, 1970). This tradition can be usefully supplemented by drawing on practice-based theory, actor network theory and feminist approaches to transformative learning theory.

If TO is a situated practice-based methodology focusing on the dynamic character of the intra-actions among heterogeneous elements (Gherardi et al., 2018), how does TO enact collective reflective practices in higher education classrooms? In what ways can TO shape and enhance transformative teaching and learning in these settings? What does TO do in situated practices and how does the study of TO contribute to practice-based studies? Starting from those questions, we discuss a framework for performative art-based learning in higher education. This grows out of a comparative re-analysis of notes and narrative data gathered from previous experiences in which Theatre of the Oppressed was adopted during the training course of Certification for future teachers in an Italian university. The hypothesis is that through TO teachers in training are supported to:

Surface tacit beliefs, implicit expectations, feelings and judgments that unconsciously direct and shape their representations of social reality.
Collectively recognise and critically interrogate shared problems and underlying assumptions.
Speak out against prejudices and reaffirm commitment to a just and equitable society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-41
Number of pages16
JournalEducation in the North
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2019


  • Collective Reflection
  • professional community
  • identity
  • Theatre of the Oppressed


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