The arts in individual transformation: examples from the recycling social movement in São Paulo, Brazil

  • Bruno de Oliveira Jayme University of Manitoba
  • Rebeca Heringer
Keywords: Social Movement Learning, Arts–based Research, Recycling Cooperatives


How does individual transformation unfold within social movement learning (SML), a territory that mainly embodies learning as a collective practice? What are the roles of visual arts in mediating such transformation? We answer these questions by exploring discourses that emerged during visual arts workshops facilitated with members of the recycling social movement in São Paulo, Brazil. To do so, we intertwine arts-based research, SML, and transformative learning theories informed by Vygotskian’s cognitive development approach as an analytical tool. Findings suggest that during the art-making process, recyclers construct their visual thought, which enables their empowerment and agency as fundamental mediators of individual transformation. 

Author Biographies

Bruno de Oliveira Jayme, University of Manitoba

is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba. Email: or visit homepage at 

Rebeca Heringer

has recently obtained her doctorate in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Education. 


Ackerly, B., Stern, M., & True, J. (2006). Feminist methodologies for international relations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Baeder, A. M. (2009). Educação ambiental e mobilização social: Formação de catadores na grande São Paulo. [Environmental education and social mobilization: Recyclers formation in the greater São Paulo]. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Universidade de São Paulo – São Paulo.

Baud, I., Grafakos, S., Hordijk, M., & Post, J. (2001). Quality of life and alliances in solid waste, management. Cities, 18(1), 3-12.

Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. J. (1996). Tools of the mind: The Vygotskian approach to early childhood education (2nd ed.). Columbus Ohio: Pearson Merril Prentice Hall.

Boyer, L., & Roth, W-M. (2005). Individual/collective dialectic of free-choice learning in a community-mapping project. Environmental Education Review, 11(3), 75-91.

Brooks, M. (2003). Drawing, thinking, meaning. TRACEY.

Brooks, M. (2005). Drawing as a unique mental development tool for young children: Interpersonal and intrapersonal dialogues. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 6(10), 80-91.

Brooks, M. (2009). What Vygotsky can teach us about young children drawing. International Art in Early Childhood Research Journal, 1(1), 1-13.

Butterwick, S. & Dawson, J. (2005). Adult education and the arts. In T. Fenwick, T. Nesbit, & B. Spencer (Eds.), Context of adult education: Canadian perspectives (pp. 281-289). Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing.

Clover, D. E. (2011). Successes and challenges of feminist arts-based participatory methodologies with homeless/street–involved women in Victoria. Action Research, 9(1), 12-26.

Clover, D. E., de Oliveira Jayme, B., Follen, S., & Hall, B. (2013). The nature of transformation: Environmental adult education. (3rd ed.). The Netherlands: Sense Publisher.

Clover, D. E., Stalker, J., & McGauley, L. (2004). Feminist popular education and community leadership: The case for new directions. In Adult education for democracy, social justice and a culture of peace. Proceedings of the International Gathering of the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education and the Adult Education Research Conference, University of Victoria (pp. 268-289).

Edwards, D. & Potter, J. (1992). Discursive psychology. London: Sage.

Eyerman, R., & Jamison, A. (1991). Social movements: A cognitive approach. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Freire, P. (1978). The pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury.

Freire, P. (2001). Pedagogia dos sonhos possíveis. São Paulo: Unesp.

Gallo, M. (2001). Immigrant workers’ journeys through a new culture: Exploring the transformative learning possibilities of photography. Studies in the Education of Adults, 33(2), 109-117.

Gutberlet, J. (2008). Recycling citizenship, recovering resources: Urban poverty reduction in Latin America. Burlington, USA: Ashgate.

Gutberlet, J., & Jayme, B. (2010). The story of my face: How environmental stewards perceive stigmatization (Re)produced by discourse. Sustainability, 2(11), 3339-3353.

Hall, B (2006). Social movement learning: Theorizing a Canadian tradition. In T. Fenwick, T. Nesbit, & B. Spencer (Eds.), Contexts of adult education:Canadian perspectives (pp. 230-238). Toronto: ON: Thompson Educational Publishing.

Hall, B., & Clover, D. E. (2005). Social movement learning. In L. English (Ed.), International encyclopedia of adult education (pp. 737-747). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hall, B., & Turray, T., (2006). A review of the state of the field of adult learning: Social movement learning.

Holford, J. (1995). Why social movements matter: Adult education theory, cognitive praxis, and the creation of knowledge [Electronic version]. Adult Education Quarterly, 45(2), 95-111.

IPEA (2010). Pesquisa sobre o pagamento por serviços ambientais urbanos para gestão de resíduos sólidos. Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada. Brasilia: Ipea.

Leont’ev, A. N. (1981). The problem of activity in psychology. In J. V. (Ed.), The concept of activity in Soviet psychology (pp. 37-71). Armonk, NY: Sharpe.

Kilgore, D. (1999). Understanding learning in social movements: A theory of collective learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 18(3), 191-202.

Klandermans, B., Kriesi, H., & Tarrow, S. (1988). International social movement research: From structure to action. Greenwich, Conn: JAI Press.

Kozulin, A. (1994). La psicologia de Vygotski. Madrid: Alianza Editorial.

Medina, M. (2001). Scavenging in America: Back to the future? Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 31(3), 229-240.

Mezirow, J. (1995). Transformation theory of adult learning. In M. R. Welton (Ed.), Defense of the life world (pp. 39-70). Albany: SUNY Press.

Mezirow, J., & Associates (2000). Learning as transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

MNCR (2011). Movimento Nacional dos Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis. Retrieved from

Miraftab, F. (2004). Making neo-liberal governance: The disempowering work of empowerment. International Planning Studies, 9(4), 230-259.

Moss, P., & Al-Hindi F. K. (2008). Feminisms in geography. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Nunn, N. (2011). Gender, empowerment, and masculine hegemonies: Analyzing social relations among cooperative recyclers in São Paulo, Brazil. Unpublished Master’s thesis. Victoria, BC.

Nunn, N., & Gutberlet, J. (2013). Cooperative recycling in São Paulo, Brazil: Towards an emotional consideration of empowerment. Area, 45(4), 452-458.

Pink, S. (2001). Doing visual ethnography. London, UK: Sage.

Rodrigues, A. M. (1998). Produção e consumo do lixo: problemática ambiental urbana. São Paulo: HUCITEC.

Roth, W. M., & Alexander, T. (1997). The interaction of student’s scientific and religious discourses: Two case studies. International Journal of Science Education, 19(2), 125-146.

Sandlin, J., & Walther, C. (2009). Complicated simplicity: Moral identity formation and social movement learning in the voluntary simplicity movement. Adult Education Quarterly, 59(4), 298-317.

Scott, S. M. (2001). Transformative learning. In T. B. Stein and M. Kompf (Eds.), Craft of teaching adults (pp. 250-273). Culture Concepts Books.

Silverman, D. (2000). Doing qualitative research: A practical handbook. London, UK: Sage.

Thapliyal, N. (2019). “Legitimate but not legal”: Learning power in the Landless Workers Movement (MST), Brazil. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2019(164), 11-22.

Tremblay, C., & de Oliveira Jayme, B. (2015). Co-creating community knowledge through Participatory Video. Journal of Action Research, 13(3), 298-314.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (2004). Creativity and imagination. Journal of Russian and Easter European Psychology, 42(1), 7-47.

Walker, J., & Palacios, C. (2016). A pedagogy of emotion in teaching about social movement learning. Teaching in Higher Education, 21(2), 175-190.

Wang, C., & Burris, M. A. (1994). Empowerment through photo novella: Portraits of participation. Health Education Quarterly, 21, 171-186.

Westoby, P., & Lyons, K. (2017). The place of social learning and social movement in transformative learning: A case study of sustainability schools in Uganda. Journal of Transformative Education, 15(3), 223-240.

Wink, J., & Putney, L. (2002). A vision on Vygotsky. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Welton, M, (2005) Designing the just learning society: A critical inquiry. Leicester, UK: NIACE.

How to Cite
de Oliveira JaymeB., & HeringerR. (2022). The arts in individual transformation: examples from the recycling social movement in São Paulo, Brazil. Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 8(1), 1-19.