Date of Submission

Spring 5-7-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)

Chair/Co-chair

Dr. Debarati Sen

Committee Member

Dr. Angela Farr Schiller

Committee Member

Dr. Amanda Richey

Committee Member

Dr. Heather Pincock

Abstract

Feminist conflict theories interrogate discreet categories of pre- and post- conflict, and instead frame conflicts as having continuous effects throughout people’s lives. In considering the educational experiences of youth with refugee backgrounds, questions arise related to both the unique stressors students face and the unique strengths students bring to their schools and resettlement communities.

Some resettlement communities have employed arts-based programs for youth with refugee backgrounds to support their relocation. This study examines the case of a middle school for girls with refugee backgrounds in the United States that utilized applied theatre to support students’ English language learning. I collected data through direct observations of applied theatre classes and analysis of performance pieces that students wrote. Additionally, I conducted semistructured interviews with students, graduates, administrators, teachers, and teaching artists. The study uses an intersectional analysis to explore relationships between gender, race, heritage cultures, and language use within the context of theatre arts at the school.

The findings from this study led to five main implications for resettlement communities interested in implementing arts-based practices in settings of refugee education: 1) Students generally expressed positive attitudes and experiences related to applied theatre for English language learning, which supports further research and engagement in this topic; 2) Applied theatre presents unique opportunities for student-centered learning, and applied theatre programs to support English language learning should be informed by best practices in applied theatre and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL); 3) Arts-based programs do not inherently support any political or social agendas, and therefore must engage actively in anti-oppression efforts to support all students’ learning; 4) Concepts of “voice” in arts-based programs require examination in order to center students’ choices about which stories to tell and how to tell them; and 5) Students’ holistic and authentic explorations of identity include shared experiences with members of their resettlement communities and differences in experiences, and arts-based programs must intentionally make space for students to explore their multiplicities of identities.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 06, 2026

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