Asian-Canadian youth identities in a pandemic era: Arts-based research

Khanlou, Nazilla | $98,537

Ontario York University 2021 SSHRC

The COVID‑19 pandemic intensified racial, socio-economic, and migrant disparities in immigrant and multicultural settings. Racialized members of the community, such as those identifying as Asian-Canadian, experienced pandemic-related stereotypes, stigma, and discrimination. Although a growing body of literature describes the pandemic’s health disparities, medical illness and mental health outcomes, limited focus is given to its psychosocial impacts on racialized youth from an interdisciplinary perspective. Our project titled, YouthAre, will help fill this gap by examining Asian-Canadian youth’s experiences of individual and collective identities.

The YouthAre project consists of three phases, with overlapping activities across the phases. Through arts-based research methods (visual: Self-Portraits, Relational Maps; drama: Readers Theatre) data will be collected. Youth will engage in participatory knowledge transfer activities in digital format.

Youth stakeholders will be involved throughout all phases. Phase 1 (months 1-18) will entail formation of the Advisory Committee of youth and community stakeholders and collection of data through visual and drama methods. Phase 2 (Months 19-24) will include integration of data sources and ongoing analysis. Traditional KT outcomes (such as publications and presentations) will be produced. Phase 3 (Months 25-36) will involve youth participatory digital documentation through inclusive KMB processes and KT activities.


Our project has the potential to advance knowledge in following aspects:

1) Fill knowledge gap on the impacts of the pandemic on youth identity from an interdisciplinary perspective.

2) Enhance theory by linking identity literature, guided by intersectionality lens, through arts-based methodologies, to youth-led digital knowledge transfer, influenced by a sociomaterialist approach.

3) Provide student training and skill development on arts-based methods, and on digital documentation.


YouthAre project’s overall benefit will be to increase understanding of racialized youth’s challenges and resilience during the pandemic, to inform youth-centred initiatives, and to increase opportunities and resources for youth. It has specific social outcomes that are of relevance to diverse target audiences.

Social outcomes

1) Inform youth-centred and equity-based policy recommendations, drawing from the project’s participatory underpinnings and digital exchange features, involving youth.

2) Promote diversity of public discourses on hyphenated and racialized youth identities through digital documentation. Youth will have the opportunity to share their lived experiences through arts-based approaches with the public. Digital platforms will allow for the incorporation of a diversity of voices that are not represented in mainstream discourses.

3) Collaboration between the research team and youth stakeholders will be supported throughout the project. Partnerships will be enhanced from local to international levels through the project’s multi-pronged KMB plan.

Target audiences

1) Academic sector/ peers: Enhanced interdisciplinary knowledge on identity literature, arts-based methodologies, and participatory KT.

2) General public: Increased understanding of Asian­Canadian youth’s identities, sense of belonging and agency, and through visual and dramatic arts.

3) Federal government: Inform youth-centered policy, to address barriers to inclusion of Asian-Canadian youth.

4) Provincial government: Inform initiatives to address barriers for racialized youth in programs and services.

5. International audiences: Disseminate project findings and outcomes through the team’s international networks.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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