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immigration, Canada, political prisoners, communication, storytelling, memory projects, learning, Iran, Middle East, art, public testimony, role of the witness, women, digital storytelling


Over the last three decades, many women and men who were political prisoners in the Middle East have come to Canada as immigrants and refugees. In their countries of origin, they resisted oppressive social policies, ideologies, and various forms of state violence. Their journeys of forced migration/exile took them away from their country, families, and friends, but they arrived in Canada with memories of violence, resistance and survival. These former political prisoners did not want the sacrifices that they and their colleagues had made to be forgotten. They needed to find effective ways to communicate these stories. This research was conducted from a critical feminist‒anti-racist perspective, and used life history research to trace the journey of one such group of women and men. This group of former political prisoners has been meeting together, using art as a mode of expression to share their experiences, inviting others to join their resistance against state violence. Interviews were conducted with former political prisoners and their supporters and artist facilitators who were part of the art workshops, performances, and exhibits held in Toronto, Canada from January 2010 through December 2011. This dissertation examines the importance of memory projects and of remembering in acts of public testimony and the significance of providing spaces for others to bear witness to those stories. This research also contributes to the body of knowledge about the role that remembering, consciousness, and praxis play in individual and community recovery, rebuilding community, and continued resistance.


31 May 2018: At the time of publication, Sheridan College author Bethany Osborne was associated with University of Toronto.

A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Graduate Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education Ontario Institute for Studies in Education University of Toronto


Faculty of Applied Health & Community Studies


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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Original Publication Citation

Osborne, B. J. (2013). The art of remembering: Iranian political prisoners, resistance and community. (Unpublished PhD dissertation). University of Toronto, Toronto. Retrieved from:


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