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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A ritual for return: Investigating the process of creating an original rite of passage with formerly incarcerated men
by Bott, Kevin, Ph.D., New York University, 2010, 299; 3427000
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation describes an insider action research project in which the researcher, inspired by reentry literature suggesting that ritual and narrative may have a positive impact on formerly incarcerated individuals making the transition from prison back to their communities, examines the process of creating and enacting a public rite of passage with four formerly incarcerated men. Intending to investigate the step-by-step process of designing and implementing applied theatre with formerly incarcerated adults, the researcher instead finds himself confronted by a number of practical and ethical dilemmas that arise as he leads the men through a process intended to facilitate a transformative threshold crossing before an audience of family members, loved ones, and others with a stake in the issue of reentry. Using Angelides' (2001) critical incident framework as a model, the researcher isolates and describes the negotiations and resolutions of four issues, one for each of the four participants. These he labels "critical conversations." Each critical conversation surfaces important insights about applied theatre practice and prisoner reentry. Findings of this study show the importance of camaraderie, accomplishment, and performativity in the reentry process. They also point to the potential for the applied theater process to surface knowledge about reentry that is richer and more nuanced than is typically surfaced by either quantitative or traditional qualitative methods. Finally, the participants describe varying but concrete transformational outcomes related to perceptions about themselves, about others, and about their experiences of incarceration and reentry. Acknowledging the complementary approaches to rites of passage provided by this applied theatre model and the reentry courts, the researcher recommends coordinating with existing reentry courts to develop voluntary, small-scale rite of passage programs for formerly incarcerated individuals through which subjective and objective scales could be developed to measure outcomes for three groups: individuals who participate in both the applied theatre rite of passage and the reentry court; individuals who participate in only the reentry court; and individuals who participate in only the applied theatre rite of passage. Overall findings indicate that the applied theatre model could be an important, if limited, approach to combat the negative effects of reentry.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Taylor, Philip M.
Commitee: Anderson, Gary, Goldman, Ricki
School: New York University
Department: Music and Performing Arts Professions
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Performing Arts, Theater, Criminology
Keywords: Applied theater, Formerly incarcerated, Incarceration, Prison, Reentry, Rite of passage, Ritual
Publication Number: 3427000
ISBN: 978-1-124-29551-0
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