Home Institution

Brown University

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


Cape Town has long been the site of conflicts over urban space. This study explored the potentials of a place-based poetry workshop as a tool for critically engaging with the urban environment. With the assistance of a well-established local poet, the researcher facilitated a poetry workshop that brought three young and emerging poets to contested public spaces including District Six, Company Gardens, and Church Square. After the workshop, poets submitted their writing to the researcher, who compiled and narrated a poem that showcased the voices of these poets while drawing attention to salient ideas evoked by the poets’ work. The researcher also wrote reflexively during the entire research process and included reflexive writing samples in the book of poetry that contained the longer narrative poem. The poetry written by participants and researchers alike, as well as the researcher’s observations from the workshop, indicate tremendous potential for place-based poetry workshop methodology. Participants engaged in a critical, self-reflexive process in which they learned about their own identities in relation to contested public space. Their poetry represented a form of democratized, interdisciplinary qualitative research, producing knowledge marked by critical engagement with memory and a focus on human and geographic bodies. The group writing process allowed participants to find commonalities that transcended their differences in identity and illuminated a common ownership of history and public space. This methodology shows promise as a tool for personal and social change in any urban locale, and should be adopted by researchers, activists, and artists alike.


Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Poetry | Politics and Social Change | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Social and Cultural Anthropology

Related Files SamLinSommer_CreativeISP.pdf (677 kB)


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