Towards public social pedagogy: Participatory theatrical events as pedagogical encounters




dialogical encounters, participatory theatre, public pedagogy, public social pedagogy, social pedagogy


  • Temporary spaces for unlikely encounters can function as an antidote for polarization.
  • Keeping the skills for dialogue alive requires spaces for practising dialogic capacities.
  • Participatory theatre has pedagogical potential as a space for dialogue on social and political issues.
  • Public social pedagogy could be useful in embracing new types of citizenship education in the public sphere.

Purpose: This study considers the pedagogical dimensions of an event concept that combined participatory theatre and social scientific research to approach questions relating to ethnic relations and racism. The article aims to establish, with the help of a practical case example, the notion of public social pedagogy.

Approach: Ethnographic research on 24 participatory theatrical events. The analysis utilizes the taxonomy of public pedagogy by Gert Biesta to provide an empirically informed theoretical autopsy of the events.

Findings: The analysis shows the pedagogical and societal importance of fostering encounters, encouraging communal discussion and nurturing dialogic competencies. Public social pedagogy would specifically address pedagogical processes relating to the public sphere, which revives the tradition of public deliberation.

Practical implications: The study directs attention to pedagogical processes within the public sphere which have not been very prominent in social pedagogy or citizenship education. The ‘autopsy’ of the participatory theatrical events provides perspectives for similar artistic interventions.

Author Biography

Sanna Ryynänen, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland

works as a Senior Lecturer specialized in Social Pedagogy at the Department of Social Sciences of the University of Eastern Finland (UEF). Her research focuses on the margins and marginalizing structures of society as well as on the social and political dimensions of theatre and performing arts. She is specialized in creative, participatory, action-oriented research methods and activist research, and enjoys doing research in multi-professional collectives with artists and activists.


  • Abstract
  • PDF
Further information



How to Cite

Ryynänen, S. (2024). Towards public social pedagogy: Participatory theatrical events as pedagogical encounters. JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 23(1).