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Queering the Art Classroom

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Since 2003 British governments have developed legislation supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals (LGBT+). In doing so, they have foregrounded the need for educational institutions to respond proactively. Evidence suggests that homophobia is prominent in UK schools,yet measures to address the issue have rested on schools reducing discussions of homosexuality to anti-bullying discourses and introducing curriculum modifications that are overwhelmingly homonormative. These methods ignore the societal and institutional power structures that produce homophobia, which is often referred to as heteronormativity. It has been suggested that heteronormativity, not victim narratives, needs to be disrupted in the curriculum to prevent homophobia to create new learning environments. Through my research and experience teaching art, I found that art education is a fruitful site for disrupting heteronormativity and normative learning practices. Art can promote criticality, exploration and flexible learning, serving to puncture regulatory discourses that restrict learning and teaching. In the art classroom, gender and sexuality is hardly ever broached. In my doctoral research, I have developed an intervention that focuses on non-normative genders and sexualities for students at GCSE level. Through the application of a pedagogy rooted in queer theory, the study explores the possibilities of disrupting heteronormativity and normative learning by investigating student and teacher responses to the interventions. The study is an exploration of an attempt at moving beyond the homonormative inclusion of LGBT + content, towards a deeper exploration of gender and sexuality.

Tabitha researches in the areas of Queer Theory and Art Education at IOE /UCL. Tabitha‚Äôs PhD research focuses on developing a curriculum at GCSE by exploring gender and sexuality in the art classroom. Tabitha has taught Art and Design in a number of London schools and continues to develop her own artistic practice working with the themes of gender and sexuality. Tabitha has had exhibitions in: National Trust, Dean Street Soho, The Oxford International Women’s Festival, Homerton College Cambridge University, Brick Lane, Roman road and Hackney Road. In addition, Tabitha was recently awarded the Spirit of Soho award for her artwork and the Charles Fox prize at Cambridge for her research.

This talk is part of the Arts and Creativities Research Group series.

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