Creative Arts-Based Geographies

Some Cautionary and Hopeful Reflections


  • Heather McLean Assistant Professor, Athabasca University


Feminist geographies, queer geographies, arts interventions, neoliberal policies, diverse economies, arts activism


This paper is a response to growing excitement about arts-engaged research in geography. More and more geographers are practicing participatory arts projects to co-investigate pressing issues with communities. However, there are a lack of reflexive discussions about the limits of this work within the confines of the neoliberal and colonial university pressuring researchers to produce 4-star work that makes an impact, or measurable change. Here I add criticality to our understanding of the pitfalls and potential of arts-based analyses. I reflect on interviews with women, queer, non-binary and trans artists who I met during my time as a post-doctoral researcher in Glasgow. I also offer an auto-ethnographical account of my attempts to practice research exchanges with artist and activist Ailie Rutherford and the Peoples Bank of Govanhill (PBoG)’s Swap Market, a collective that co-researchers and collaboratively practices alternative economies in Glasgow’s South Side Govanhill neighbourhood. Moreover, I critically reflect on my experiences attending professional development workshops that were a mandatory part of my research fellowship. As I recount these experiences, I speak back to neoliberal and colonial university enclosures reinforcing heteropatriarchal and white supremacist understandings of knowledge production. Inspired by queer feminist performance theorist and artists, I also show how arts-based research points to strategies for unsettling neoliberal and colonial university enclosures.


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How to Cite

McLean, H. (2022). Creative Arts-Based Geographies: Some Cautionary and Hopeful Reflections. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 21(3), 311–326. Retrieved from



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