A search for presence

Karen Schaller
Doctoral Dissertation,
2020.
This professional doctorate is a search for presence using autoethnography, multi modal arts-based practice and lyric inquiry as methodological approaches.The thesis comprises seven separate books of varying sizes in different voices and styles which include images, prose, poetry, and descriptions of the inquiry undertaken by the researcher alone and with women ‘around the kitchen table’ as both process and product. What began with the mantra ‘everything is ok in the present’, born of experiences as a foster parent and partner to her dying husband, morphed into the mantra ‘nothing is ok in the present.’ This change came through discovering she was still grieving and led to an exploration of death, dying and widowhood. This eventually transformed into good-enough-presence. Presence emerged as no simple panacea to life’s challenges but rather as a nuanced, multiple, layered, and complex experience. And voice in the style of prose and poetry was a spacious, open- ended method and site for research. Lyric inquiry became the methodology to research the data emerging from her hand and the texts in her world: songs, novels, movies, all portals to deeper places to wonder about presence, through curiosity, description and noticing; creating new places to focus and be attentive. The books make visible what the researcher came to know about presence whilst privileging its complex, contextual, layered, and poetic qualities. The research itself and women ‘around the kitchen table’ held the researcher gently as she came to embrace staying in uncertain presences and her own poetic voice.

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