Parts of the Whole: Embodied Expression as Liberation Practice

Nicole Gamroth, Zoe Garnett, Autumn Powless, and Jasmine Uras, “Parts of the Whole: Embodied Expression as Liberation Practice”
Mentor: Maria Gillespie, Dance
Oral Presentation Block 2

The current carceral system is one that oppresses those who have already suffered trauma at the hands of a broken system, designed to strip individuals of autonomy under the guise of punishment. Thus, we aim to study how expressive movement and visual art restores wellness within the bodies of those suffering at the hands of the carceral system through partnership with Vel R. Phillips Youth Justice Center. Inspired and informed by restorative justice- the practice of rehabilitation and reconciliation between victim and perpetrator, and critical pedagogy- the practice of critiquing structures of power and oppression, we developed research through field work and case studies. By attending conferences about restorative justice and examining case studies from around Milwaukee through readings and podcasts, we curated trauma-informed movement and art practices to promote play, restoration, and community. Through these practices, students build autonomy by learning how to identify feelings and develop skills to embody their experiences. Furthermore, students encounter a welcoming environment that promotes trust, collaboration, and community, while offering a chance for their voices to be heard. The more we engage with “rehabilitative” prisons, we see the many ways that trauma and isolation are reinforced in these settings. Our findings show us how dance, music, art, and the promotion of autonomy positively impact the ability to restore individual wellness. With this knowledge, we serve as a voice of awareness to the faults in the carceral system and seek to inform others about embodied expression as a means to promote restoration and healing in those impacted by said system