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March 2021 Educator|Resource of the Month

The Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice Educator|Resource is a monthly feature that highlights curricular resources and social work educators who address diversity and justice.










Dr. Rogério Meireles Pinto, University of Michigan

Advancing Intersectionality Through Art and Science

“Intersectionality is…a way of thinking about identity and its relationship to power…. It brought to light the invisibility of many constituents within groups that claim them as members, but often fail to represent them.”  —Kimberlé Crenshaw 

According to Dr. Rogério Meireles Pinto, by integrating art and science we can advance issues of intersectionality and the broader betterment of society. In this beginning of 2021, we are facing the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Black racism, police brutality, and mass incarceration, while autocrats and the billionaire class are actively curtailing workers’ rights; demonizing racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual minority identities; mocking people with disabilities; and surveilling every aspect of our lives. People across the globe rightly reject the supremacy of corporate science—we need scholarship and practices that explore the arts as robust platforms for addressing biopsychosocial problems. The report by the World Health Organization, What Is the Evidence on the Role of the Arts in Improving Health and Well-Being? (2019), which focuses on health promotion and treatment, suggests that used wisely, a blend of art and science has enormous potential to help us advance social justice and develop structural interventions to dismantle the toxic dominance of White culture and the policies that hinder diversity, equity, and inclusion and perpetuate White supremacy and racism.  

Born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Dr. Pinto, is associate dean for research and innovation, professor of social work at the University of Michigan, and an expert in community-engaged research in the United States and Brazil. He incorporates art-based scholarly approaches in his research and teaching. He performed Marília, a one-person play (see play script), on New York City's Theatre Row in 2015 and in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in 2016. (Marília won the 2015 United Solo Festival Best Documentary Script.) Currently funded by the University of Michigan Office of Research and several other sources, he is building The Realm of the Dead, an art installation to investigate his own marginalization as a gender nonconforming, mixed-race, and Latinx immigrant.

Teaching Resources 

Dr. Pinto demonstrates how the development of critical consciousness espoused by Paulo Freire in his classic Pedagogy of the Oppressed continues to offer the key ingredient for self-awareness, liberation, and social action so relevant in the context of contemporary systems of inequality. These are the same principles that form the basis for August Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. We can rely on Boal’s techniques to teach and to learn self-referential theater and drama for therapeutic purposes—personal growth, healing, problem-solving—as well as for artistic, educational, or advocacy goals. Self-referential theater and drama can be used to heal the self and to prepare social workers and clients to pursue self-healing, community-level engagement and intervention, political involvement, advocacy, letter writing campaigns, and solutions to myriad biopsychosocial problems. Dr. Pinto shares rich multimedia resources in which he blends art and science (performance, podcasts, and videos) and shows how they can be used in social work courses. 

Performance as a Tool for Self-Awareness, Liberation, and Social Action

Although a science-based profession, social work relies on methods and procedures that have historically served the needs of majority populations. These methods have often produced racist, heteronormative, decontextualized, and often harmful interventions that have negatively affected groups of people historically marginalized by the majority in power. Inequity is the result. In a short video, Diversity Matters: What About Equity & Inclusion?, Dr. Pinto shows how diversity, as we talk about it, is not authentic without equity and inclusion.

Diversity Matters, What About Equity & Inclusion? (6:29)

 Podcasts on the use of Self for Healing and Social Action

Podcasts are unique and user-friendly tools to combat heteronormativity, racism, and homophobia by packing great amounts of information into a compact form. This format encourages personal stories to engage, inspire, and guide individuals who have been oppressed and whose voices have been silenced. In the podcasts listed below, Dr. Pinto shows that “everyone has the ability for this kind of healing work and action.” He also expands on his play, Marília, which grows out of the theater of the oppressed. 

  • Harnessing the Power of Social Capital (34.05). In this episode of Strength in the Midst of Change, Dr. Pinto shares his insights about what led him to his career in social work and acknowledges the importance of harnessing the power of social capital in university diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. 
  • Art Installation as a Theater Stage to Broadcast Unheard Voices (37.01). At the 2020 Art and Education for Social Justice Symposium, Dr. Pinto discusses his journey into the theater as well as ways to use theater to bring out “unheard” voices. 
  • Understanding the Importance of Transgender Awareness Week (25.59). Dr. Pinto shares his research to highlight the health and structural challenges facing individuals in the transgender and broader LBGTQ+ community, in this episode of Michigan Minds
  • A Sense of Purpose (50.00). In this episode of the It's Your Sister podcast on the topic of finding meaning in our own suffering and the suffering of the world, Dr. Pinto describes his process of “psychological excavation,” through which he has found peace and meaning through art despite a traumatic childhood.

Community Dialogues: Racial Inequalities Video Series 

In response to the rapid spread of COVID-19 and its high mortality rates,  Dr. Pinto and colleagues from the Faculty Allies for Diversity established a community-focused COVID Racial Inequalities Video Series. It ran for 15 weeks in the spring/summer 2020. In these compelling community gatherings, Dr. Pinto conversed with scholars, practitioners, and community stakeholders from across the United States about the devastating and unequal consequences of the epidemic.

In a total of 13 recordings Dr. Pinto explores racial inequities in geographic areas (New York City, Detroit, New Orleans) and specific populations (African Americans, LGBTQ+, imprisoned). He explores the toxic influence of White supremacy in our lives and the harmful influence of White supremacy in social work research and practice. Dr. Pinto recommends this playlist containing five shorter/edited videos for in-person and online education.


Q & A: Educator Pedagogical Approach

What is your pedagogical approach and your contributions to social work teaching? 

Grounded in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and his critical-thinking theories, and reflecting community-engaged research principles, my classroom is an environment for participatory learning, where I promote students’ self-awareness, critical consciousness, and critical thinking. Read the full Q&A. 


The views expressed in the Educator|Resource are those of the educator(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Social Work Education.

 Contact Dr. Yolanda Padilla, CSWE Diversity Center Director, at [email protected].