Dr. Sajnani's work has focused on the purpose of theater-making in the aftermath of violence and as an approach to embodied enquiry.
Professional Title: Director of the Global Interdisciplinary Studies Program; Associate Professor of Drama Therapy, Coordinator for the Drama Therapy Program, and Expressive Therapies Doctoral Advisor
Areas of Academic Focus and Expertise: Drama Therapy; Critical Race Feminism; Trauma Studies; Applied Improvisation; Performance Pedagogy; Arts-Based Research; Medical Humanities; and Cultural Competency
Area of Work and Concentration at Lesley: Drama Therapy, Expressive Therapies
Representative List of Recent Courses Taught: Orientation/Integrative Seminar;
Research and Evaluation;
Theories of Drama Therapy;
Performance: Art, Education, Therapy;
Performance and Practice: Art, Education, and Therapy;
Multiculturalism in Research;
Philosophical Foundations of Expressive Therapies
Education: Ph.D., Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Concordia University;
M.A., Drama Therapy, Concordia University;
Mastery Certificate, Global Mental Health: Trauma and Recovery, Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma
Representative List of Recent Publications / Exhibitions:
BooksSajnani, N. and Johnson, D.R. (2014). Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas
Sajnani, N. Muhungi, W.M., Yee, J., Mercer, K., Butler, K., Jones, L., Neira, N.L., Matining, M. (2012). Decolonizing "social justice" work: Stories to support organizations, facilitators, and youth working against oppression. Montreal, QC: Girls Action Foundation
ChaptersSajnani, N., (forthcoming). Living Enquiry: Improvisation and performance in and as research. In R.Houghham, S. Pitruzella, and S. Scoble (Eds.) Dimensions of Reflection in the Arts Therapies. EU: European Consortium of Creative Arts Therapies Educators.Sajnani, N. (forthcoming). Relational aesthetics in performance. In S. Pendzik, R. Emunah, and D. R. Johnson (Eds.), Autobiographical, Self-Revelatory, and Auto-Ethnographic forms of Therapeutic Theatre. Fraser, T., Sajnani, N., Louw, A., Austin, S. (2014). Reflecting on systems of change through the politics of place. In Claudia Mitchell and Carrie Rentschler (Eds.) Girlhood Studies and the politics of place: New paradigms of research. New York: Berghahn BooksJohnson, D.R, Sajnani, N. (2014). The role of the drama therapy in trauma treatment. In N. Sajnani and D.R. Johnson, Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities (pp. 5-23). IL: Charles C. ThomasSajnani, N., Johnson, D.R. (2014) State of the art of trauma-informed drama therapy. In N. Sajnani and D.R. Johnson, Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities (pp. 24-40). IL: Charles C. ThomasSajnani, N., Linds, W., Wong, A., Ndejuru, L., Lu, L., Gareau, P., and Ward, D. (2014). The Living Histories Ensemble: Sharing authority through play, storytelling, and performance in the aftermath of violence, in D. Conrad and A. Sinner (eds.), Creating together: Participatory, community-based and collaborative arts practices and scholarship across Canada. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University
Sajnani, N., Wong, A., Ndejuru, L., and Linds, W. (2013). Turning together: Playback theatre, oral history, and arts-based research in the Montreal life stories project. In E. Little, R. Duong, and S. High (Eds.), Remembering war, genocide and other human rights violations: New media and the arts (112-139). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto
Sajnani, N. (2011). Playback theatre and social change: Reflections from a Montreal workshop, in Neumark, D. and Chagnon, J., Documenting collaboration: 69 community art projects in Québec and beyond. Monreal: Levier
Sajnani, N. (2010). Mind the gap: Facilitating transformative witnessing amongst audiences, in Jones, P. Drama as therapy: Clinical work and research into practice. London: Routledge
Sajnani, N. (2009). Theatre of the oppressed: Drama therapy as cultural dialogue, in Johnson, D.R. and Emunah, R., Current approaches in drama therapy. IL: Charles C. Thomas
Sajnani, N. (2013). The body politic. The relevance of an intersectional framework for therapeutic performance research in drama therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 40 (3), 382-385.
Sajnani, N. (2012). The creative arts therapies and social justice: A Conversation between the editors, The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39 (3), 165-167
Sajnani, N. (2012). Response/ability: Imagining a critical race feminist paradigm for the creative arts therapies, The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39 (3), 186-191
Sajnani, N. (2012). Improvisation and art-based research, Journal of Applied Arts and Health, 3 (1), 79-87
Sajnani, N. (2012). The implicated witness: Towards a relational aesthetic in dramatherapy. Dramatherapy: The Journal of the British Association of Dramatherapists, 34 (1), 6-21.
Sajnani, N. (2011). Coming into presence: Discovering the ethics and aesthetics of performing oral histories in the Montreal life stories project, Alt. Theatre: Cultural Diversity and the Stage, 9 (1), 40-49.
Sajnani, N. (2011). The bridge: Towards relational aesthetic inquiry in the Montreal life stories project, Canadian Theatre Review, 148 (1), 18-24
Sajnani, N. and Mendell, M. (2007). La recherche partenariale: le cas de L'ARUC en economie sociale. Organisations et Territories: Reflexion sur la Gestion, Innovation, et le Dévelopmment, 16 (1)
Sajnani, N. and Nadeau, D. (2006). Creating safer spaces for immigrant women of color: Performing the politics of possibility. Canadian Woman Studies Journal/Les cahiers de la femme, 25 (1-2), 45-53
Sajnani, N. (2004). Strategic narratives: The embodiment of minority discourse in biographical performance. Canadian Theatre Review, 117, 33-37
Journal Special Issue
The Creative Arts Therapies and Social Justice (Contributing Co-Editor, with Frances Kaplan), The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39 (3), (2012).
Sajnani, N. (2010). Permeable boundaries: Toward a critical, collaborative performance pedagogy, Doctoral Thesis, Montreal: Concordia University
Sajnani, N. "Improvising Coexistence: Teaching Cultural Competency in and through Drama Therapy." Institut für Theatertherapie [Keynote Presentation]. Remscheid, Germany. June 5–8, 2014.
Sajnani, N., Wong, A., Linds, W., Ndejuru, L., Gareau, P., Lu, L., "The Living Histories Ensemble: Performing Oral Histories on the Edge." Berkshire Conference of Women Historians [Artist in Residence]. Toronto, ON, Canada. May 22–25, 2014.
Sajnani, N. Goodill, S., Kaiser, D., Murphy, K., Landis, H., Scherlong, N., "Research in the Creative Arts Therapies: Purposes and Possibilities." Expressive Therapies Summit [Conference]. New York, USA. November 7-10, 2013.
Sajnani, N., "Action Methods in the Treatment of Trauma." Healing the Generations: Child and Family Trauma Conference [Conference]. Groton, CT, USA. October 2–5, 2013.
Pendzik, S., Sajnani, N., Little, E., Mowers, D., "The Ethics of Aesthetics in Drama Therapy and Embodied Research: Multidisciplinary Perspectives." North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. Montreal, Canada. September 26–29, 2013.
Sajnani, N., Parsa, P., Giacona, A., Carter, S., Hix, L., Radish, J., Rozenman, L., Benjamin, P., Ramadani, V., "Embodied Methodologies: An Introduction to Arts-Based Research." North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. Montreal, Canada. September 26-29, 2013.
Raucher, G. Sajnani, N. "Culture Lab: Assessing a Pedagogical Approach to the Basis of Cultural Competence." North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. Montreal, Canada. September 26–29, 2013.
Sajnani, N. "Embodied Methodologies: Arts-Based Research in Drama Therapy." European Consortium for Arts Therapies Education [Conference]. Paris, France. September 11–14, 2013.
Sajnani, N., Johnson, D.r., "Responding to Conflict Through Drama and Theater." Conflict as Catalyst: 4th Annual Arts in Healthcare [Conference]. Cambridge, Mass. May 31–June 1, 2013.
Sajnani, N. "DvT Bebop Playback." 8th Annual Developmental Transformations [Conference]. New Haven, Conn. April 19–21, 2013.
Sajnani, N. "Facilitating Student Attachment through Trauma-informed Play." European Congress of Dramatherapy and Playtherapy [Conference]. Athens. November 23–25, 2012.
Sajnani, N. "Facilitating Across Difference." Girls Action Foundation: Annual Amplify Retreat [Conference]. Québec. November 14–17, 2012.
Sajnani, N., Hodermarska, M., Arnason, C., Fran, S. "Arts-Based Research and the Arts Therapies." Expressive Therapies Summit [Conference]. New York. November 8–11, 2012.
Sajnani, N., Curtis, S., Davis, J., Mayor, C., Wittig, J."Social Justice and the Creative Arts Therapies." Expressive Therapies Summit [Conference]. New York. November 8–11, 2012.
"I make a point of wandering through open markets in every city I visit. I adore Montreal and the Canadian maritime provinces. I often photograph bridges and piers and enjoy mossy walks, ziplining, and kayaking. A recent inspiring read was Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (Italian: Le citta invisibili) and, like Jeannette Winterson, found that it would suffice 'as pillow and plate' if I were lost on a deserted island."
— Nisha Sajnani
Dr. Nisha Sajnani is a Registered Drama
Therapies (RDT) and Board Certified Trainer (BCT). She is a core faculty
member of the Expressive Therapies Division, Coordinator of the Drama
Therapy program, and services as a primary advisor for the
Expressive Therapies PhD program here at Lesley.
Prior to joining Lesley, Dr. Sajnani was
the director of the Drama Therapy and Community Health program at the
Post Traumatic Stress Center in New Haven, Connecticut, where she
spearheaded the development of a trauma-informed, school-based
intervention program. She has taught in the Theatre Studies department
at Yale and in the Drama Therapy program at Concordia University. Dr.
Sajnani also teaches in New York University's Drama Therapy program, in
the Harvard Refugee Trauma program, and facilitates an annual train-the
trainer program on popular education and gender-based violence through
the Girls Action Foundation in Canada. Through her years of teaching,
she cultivated a teaching approach based upon popular and performative
practices and developed an interest in collaborative learning. The work
of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal guide her teaching and advising,
resulting in a style that is student-centered, flexible, and rigorous.
Dr. Sajnani's research interests include
the use of improvisation and performance in qualitative research, drama
therapy and applied theater with displaced and exploited persons, the
politics of therapy, education, and performance, audience reception, and
the relationship between feminist psychology and embodied practices in
the treatment of internalized and systemic trauma and oppression.Nisha Sajnani is a past- president of the North American Drama Therapy Association (www.nadta.org) and founder of the Theater Beyond Borders initiative at Lesley University. Dr. Sajnani is on the editorial board for the Arts in Psychotherapy and the editor-in-chief for Drama Therapy Review, the journal of the North American Drama Therapy Association.
Expressive Arts Therapy
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