Manoela Afonso dos Anjos

Language and place in the life of Brazilian women living in London: an artistic approach to life writing

Chelsea College of Arts

This interdisciplinary practice-based research aims to investigate how Brazilian women living in London perceive place from the perspective of their experience with English language. As a newcomer to London, I decided to use art practice to approach some life writing genres in order to gather not only my own stories on language and place, but also those told by other Brazilian women I have met in this city. In this thesis, I take diary, language memoir, correspondence, and autoethnography as structural elements of my art practice, and writing becomes a transversal practice that interlaces fields and creates zones of contact between them. Through diverse writing processes, I articulate fields of art, life writing, humanistic geography, critical pedagogy, gender studies, and postcolonial studies, claiming art practice as an interdisciplinary methodology for experimental forms of knowledge production, and a flexible and creative space where different methods can be combined and even created.

This investigation offers a contribution to knowledge through developing an artistic approach to life writing that will result in the production of creative research methods, with which I will approach the group of participants in this research. Such methods will give an unprecedented view on language and place in the daily life of Brazilian women living in London, since this is the first time that a group of Brazilian women living in this city will share personal stories on English language in their lives by writing a collective language memoir. The participants will engage with this investigation through individual interviews and collective meetings, through which they will be stimulated to gather personal life narratives by using methods I have been creating through art practice. The language memoir produced by the group will be published and distributed freely among people and organizations engaged with the struggles of Brazilian community living abroad, with the objective to highlight the impact of language in the lives of immigrant women.

This investigation is informed mainly by Yi-Fu Tuan’s concepts of place; Alice Yaeger Kaplan’s approach to language memoir; Philippe Lejeune’s research on diary genre; Margaretta Jolly’s overview on life writing connected to feminism; Michel Foucault’s approach to self-writing and the technologies of the self; Paulo Freire’s approach to critical pedagogy, literacy, and participatory action research; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s and bell hook’s accounts of language, women, community, and postcolonialism; Jane Rendell’s concept of site-writing; and artworks developed mainly by the artists Susanne Lacy, Renée Green, and Trinh T. Minh-ha.


David Cross

Dr Hayley Newman