Melissa Trimingham, Senior Lecturer in Drama University of Kent will be presenting the Imagining Autism Project to Anthropology Masters Students at St Andrew’s University next week.
The ‘fundamental premise’ of ‘Knowing from the Inside’ is that ‘knowledge grows from our practical and observational engagement with beings and things around us. Knowledge, we contend, comes from thinking with, from and through beings and things, not just about them.’ http://www.abdn.ac.uk/research/kfi/
The AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded project ‘Imagining Autism’ at the University of Kent, similarly approached autism from the ‘inside’. We pioneered new approaches to communicating with autistic children, using drama and theatre. The sessions take place within the ‘pod’, a portable tent like structure, and in this ‘playground’ very severely autistic children with no speech or apparent communication at all, develop their imagination, emotion and empathy. In the ‘scenes’ offered- Forest, Arctic, Outer Space, Underwater and Under City, the children (in groups of 4, aged 7-11) meet puppets, masked and costumed characters, and enjoy varied sounds, texture and projections. The very loose story can be altered or cut or extended depending on how the children join in, but it’s important to realize that linear narrative unfolding is not important, but iterative process is. Children are free to play, experiencing ‘engagement with beings and things’ around them, which is very rare for them. The result is surprising gain in ‘knowledges’- for them and us.
As a practitioner, researcher, maker and designer of the project, I want to share some of the more extraordinary moments of the project and from that draw out some ideas about how meaning is never always dependent on words. Instead, as in this project, communication draws richly on unnoticed wells of meaning in our environment- the fluidity of space for example, and on objects imbued by familiarity, handling and use.
Knowing from the Inside
‘Knowing From the Inside’ is about the practices of inquiry in the human sciences and the forms of knowledge to which they give rise. Its fundamental premise is that knowledge grows from our practical and observational engagement with beings and things around us. Knowledge, we contend, comes from thinking with, from and through beings and things, not just about them. Our aim is to show how research underpinned by this premise could make a difference to the sustainability of environmental relations and to the well-being that depends on it.
The project is funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant held by Professor Tim Ingold. It includes five sub-projects that explore the fields of landscape management, craft heritage, environmental conservation, building and restoration, and drawing and notation.