Book Review: Knowing Differently: Arts-Based and Collaborative Research Methods

Publication Date01 March 2009
AuthorHelen Simons
Date01 March 2009
SubjectBook Review
Book reviews 57
Title: Knowing Differently: Arts-Based and Collaborative Research Methods
Editors: Pranee Liamputtong and Jean Rumbold
Publisher/year: Nova Science Publishers, New York, 2008
Extent/type: 343 pages, hardback
Price: US$71.10 from website <>
ISBN: 978-1-60456-378-8
This book is a joy to read.
Over 300 pages in 16 chapters,
packed with arguments, ideas
and strategies for knowing
differently. Praneee Liamputtong
and Jean Rumbold have put
together a volume that is rich
in insight and likely to be a
continuing source of ideas
for those wishing to explore
different ways of knowing
through arts-based and
collaborative research. The
authors are drawn from different
countries— Australia, UK,
Europe, USA and Canada—and
different fields of inquiry in
the health and social sciences,
including education, psychology,
sociology, nursing, public health,
art and music therapy. Many are
academics; others professional
practitioners, all conducting
qualitative research, for the
most part using the creative
arts, as well as being practising
professionals in their respective
fields. This diversity is further
reflected in the substantive
focus of many of the papers in
therapeutic contexts and with
marginal or vulnerable people.
The editors set the scene
extremely well in Chapter 1,
locating the focus and theoretical
underpinning of the volume in the
qualitative inquiry tradition, the
extended epistemology of Heron
and Reason (1997)—experiential,
propositional, presentational
and practical knowing—and
the twin themes of arts-based
and collaborative inquiry. They
acknowledge that arts-based
inquiry is not new, but in the
wider research context in the
health and social sciences that
privileges other modes of inquiry,
such as randomised field trials,
they wish to give it more space
and emphasis. While links are
explored between the different
ways of knowing, the emphasis
is primarily on presentational
knowing, on finding creative
ways to access the experiential
knowing of participants and
researchers in order to serve
good practice (p. 3).
Taking a cue from
Richardson, ‘Writing is always
… situational, and … our Self
is always present, no matter
how much we try to suppress
it …’(Richardson 2000, p.
930), the editors also give
their own stories of how and
why they each came to be
involved in arts-based and
collaborative inquiry. This is a
practice followed thereafter by
all contributors. Each chapter
starts not with an abstract but
with ‘Situating the Knower:
The Writing Story’. This strong
personal element engages the
reader right from the start
and makes for a lively and
interesting text.
Chapter 2 by Chris Seeley
and Peter Reason, ‘Expressions
of Energy: an Epistemology
of Presentational Knowing’,
completes the introductory
part of the book and further
underpins the main argument
through an analysis of
Heron’s (1992, 1999) fourfold
epistemology and an example
of the process of presentational
knowing. After this introduction
to the main themes, the book
is organised into four parts:
knowing differently through
words, knowing differently
through images, knowing
differently through the body, and
knowing differently together.
Knowing Differently
Through Words
Each of the four papers in this
section offers a different angle
on how to represent experience
through words. The first by
Peter Willis clearly outlines the
arguments for and criteria by
which we can judge expressive
inquiry and then gives a
portrayal of their use in informal
adult education practice. The
next two focus on the literary
genre of the short story. Marcelo
Diversi presents a strong case
for using the short story form
(while also reflecting on the
ethics of doing so) to re-present
understandings from a critical
ethnography of Latino youth
in the US; and Darrell Caulley
offers an excellent account of the
nature of the form and how to
construct a story from qualitative
data using the story in the
previous chapter as an example.
The fourth paper by Christine
Davis and Carolyn Ellis,
‘Autoethnographic Introspection
in Ethnographic Fiction: a
Method of Inquiry’, experiments
with an interactive process of
writing and presenting a paper
at a fictional research conference
using ethnographic data and
other sources. This works less
well as method, which was
sometimes difficult to follow,
but the dialogue exploring the
boundaries of ethnographic
fiction raises essential questions
for the credibility and validity of
this form of inquiry.
Knowing Differently
Through Images
Both papers in this section
draw attention to the utility
of working with images with
adults when participants in the
research may have difficulty
expressing themselves. Marilys
Guillemin and Carolyn Westall
used drawings and critical
reflection to understand
women’s experiences of
postnatal depression (PND).
using Rose’s (2001) critical
EJA_9_1.indb 57 18/10/09 10:34:24 PM

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