Performing Empowerment






VisAbility, Church of the American Ceylon Mission, Swarmy Vipulananda Institute of Aesthetic Studies, Eastern University, University of Peradeniya.


Dr. Lars Waldorf (Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York) [lead], Adam Benjamin (Theatre and Performance, Plymouth University) and Dr. Hetty Blades (Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE), Coventry University)


This project examines an innovative way of empowering persons with conflict-related disabilities in Sri Lanka through a combination of dance and law that was pioneered and piloted by VisAbility, a German association, in mid-2015. It consists of four main activities: (1) workshops that combine integrated dance (where disabled and able-bodied dancers perform together) and legal empowerment; (2) flash mobs and dance performances in busy, public spaces by workshop participants; (3) research on how the workshops and performances affect the agency, dignity, welfare, and inclusion of persons with conflict-related disabilities; and (4) dissemination of research findings to development policymakers and practitioners.

Visit the project website here.

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Persons with conflict-related disabilities will benefit from this research in several ways. First, their participation in the workshops and co-production of the research will ensure that the project meets their needs for empowerment. Second, the dance performances (which are both research outputs and objects of research) play an integral role in impact. For disabled participants, performing and ‘making abilities visible’ helps them to develop confidence, autonomy, and self-esteem. Third, the research findings will be incorporated into a practitioners toolkit that will help the partners and other civil society organizations combine integrated dance and legal empowerment more effectively. Fourth, the research aims to drive the empowerment of persons with conflict-related disabilities higher up the policy agenda. Finally, the project will produce an evidence-base on linking legal empowerment with participatory performance to reduce extreme poverty and social exclusion for persons with conflict-related disabilities after conflict.

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