Events and public defences

Doctoral dissertation. Narrative Spaces: On identity work and placeness through arts-based narrative practices


The challenge brought to the forefront of arts-based research in human contexts is to value and constantly re-examine the relationship between the storyteller and the listener, and between the knower and the knowledge. Daria Akimenko’s study attempts at mapping a research field where the complexity of identities, narratives, contexts, places, and practices is embraced rather than simplified. It employs arts-based and reflexive approaches to research, working in a landscape of six global communities of place and practice and aiming at academic, artistic and general public audiences.

Certain things are inherent to our human life worlds regardless of where we come from and whether we are aware of them or not. Among them are the aspirations to identify with people and the places we inhabit, to narrate our life histories and to be heard. Creative expression, too, is inherent to every human life that strives to make sense of its complex events and circumstances.

This article-based dissertation proposes a rethinking of artistic processes, of and with communities of place and practice by focusing on the identities of all of the involved parties, including the artist-researcher herself. The researcher hypothesises that narrative-based artistic practices impact on the identity work of individuals and communities through bringing forward the unique relationship and interplay between stories, identities and places. This is enabled through the creation of ethical spaces for dialogue, empathy and participation by the researcher with six global communities of place and practice in Edinburgh, UK; Cork, Ireland; Fowlers Bay and Port Augusta, South Australia; Rovaniemi, Finland; and Murmansk, Russia.

The study gives a theoretical overview of some of the current topics in qualitative research in human contexts: identity, narrative, place and space. The discussion is supplemented by the understanding of artistic practice and the way it can converse with and impact on the previously mentioned topics. Complex contexts are being discussed, such as identity work of individuals and groups of difficult life circumstance and those involved in migratory practices. In the final chapters, the researcher formulates three main findings: 1) a framework for reflexive arts-based research with communities; 2) a theoretical viewpoint on narrative identities of individuals and places; and 3) an approach to the ethics of representation. Together, they compile a comprehensive toolkit for conducting sustainable and ethical research and art practices with multiple research participants from the moment of first encounter all the way to the dissemination of the research findings.

The author ponders such questions as: “How can one be a researcher with communities and oneself? How to find a common ground and language? How to incorporate everyone’s versatile backgrounds, contexts and personalities? How to be an artist, as well as a researcher, how to accommodate your own and the participants’ artistic aspirations into the inquiry?”

This study will find its reader among the students, researchers and practitioners of art in its “social” forms: community art, socially engaged art, artivism and so on. Curators and art mediators may find interest in reading it, too, as it touches upon the questions of ethical representation of “storied” art produced by individuals and groups. This work has a potential to find an audience beyond the arts-related realm. In social work, for example, it may suggest inclusive strategies for entering communities of place, practice and difficult circumstance.

Information on the defence:

The public examination of Daria Akimenko’s dissertation will take place 12 November 2018 at 12:00 (noon) at Asko and Esko Hall, University of Lapland, Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi. The opponent appointed for the examination is Professor Nithikul Nimkulrat of Estonia Academy of Arts in Tallinn. Professor Satu Miettinen from the University of Lapland will be the custos at the defence.

Information on the doctoral candidate:

Daria Akimenko was born in 1987 in USSR and is a researcher, designer, photographer and filmmaker. She holds a Master’s degree in Spatial Design from the Ural State Academy of Architecture and Arts in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Her research and artistic interests lie in communities of practice, place and placelessness, in migratory practices and related identity work that occurs individually and collectively. Website:

Additional information: /
+358 46 555 07 14 / +39 34 052 63 400

Information on the publication:

Daria Akimenko: Narrative Spaces: On identity work and placeness through arts-based narrative practices. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 379. Hansaprint Oy 2018. ISBN 978-952-337-105-7. E-version: Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 246. ISBN 978-952-337-106-4.
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