Channelling discomfort through the arts: A Covid-19 case study through an intercultural telecollaboration project





Citation of Original Publication

Porto M, Golubeva I, Byram M. Channelling discomfort through the arts: A Covid-19 case study through an intercultural telecollaboration project. Language Teaching Research. November 2021. doi:10.1177/13621688211058245


© The Author(s) 2021. Non-commercial use only. No derivative uses.



In this article we argue, in the context of the current dominance of the performative and instrumental drives characterising the accountable university, that language and intercultural communication education in universities should also be humanistic, addressing ‘discomforting themes’ to sensitise students to issues of human suffering and engage them in constructive and creative responses to that suffering. We suggest that arts-based methods can be used and illustrate this with an international project created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. In this way language and intercultural communication education can become a site of personal and social transformation. Through arts-based methodologies and pedagogies of discomfort, Argentinian and US undergraduates explored how the theme of the Covid-19 crisis has been expressed artistically in their countries, and then communicated online, using English as their lingua franca, to design in mixed international groups artistic multimodal creations collaboratively to channel their suffering and trauma associated with the pandemic. This article analyses and evaluates the project. Data comprise the students’ artistic multimodal creations, their written statements describing their creations, and pre and post online surveys. Our findings indicate that students began a process of transformation of disturbing affective responses by creating artwork and engaging in therapeutic social and civic participation transnationally, sharing their artistic creations using social media. We highlight the powerful humanistic role of education involving artistic expression, movement, performativity, and community engagement in order to channel discomforting feelings productively at personal and social levels.