Social Circus: The Cultural Politics of Embodying “Social Transformation”

Jennifer Beth Spiegel
Date Published: 
Winter 2016
Published In/by: 
The Drama Review

In the later decades of the 20th century, principles of cultural democracy became prominent in discourses of community art (see Goldbard 2006; Graves 2005) in the hope that this approach could redress the social control implicit in colonial and neocolonial programs (Nicholson 2011). In 2006, community arts practitioner Arlene Goldbard, elaborating on cultural democracy, explained how cultural development assists communities to learn from one another and communicate in multiple directions, countering the agendas of elite institutions that dominate the cultural sphere (Goldbard 2006:129). This discourse, combined with the popularization of “social inclusion” mandates, meant that rather than focusing on community arts as a means of “integrating” marginalized peoples into mainstream society, attempts and strategies to allow individuals and communities to creatively participate on their own terms were to be encouraged (Spiegel 2014).