The Body Language of Place: A New Method for Mapping Intergenerational "Geographies of Embodiment" in Place-Health Research

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Social Science & Medicine

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Research on place and health has grown rapidly in recent years, including examining the physiological embodiment of place-based exposures. While this research continues to improve understanding of why place matters, there is particular need for work capable of revealing: 1) which places matter, i.e. spatially-specific notions of "place"); 2) how these places matter-processes and mechanisms of the physiological embodiment of place; and 3) potential intergenerational and life stage differences in place-embodiment experiences/perceptions. The research presented here seeks to make contributions in each of these areas through developing the "geographies of embodiment" concept. Drawing from a multi-method intergenerational community-based participatory research project examining place and health, the research presented here specifically highlights X-Ray Mapping as a new methodology to elucidate subjective notions of place-embodiment within place-health research. Participants were recruited as parent-child dyads and trained in four participatory research methods, including X-Ray Mapping. Participants used X-Ray Mapping and a multimedia-enabled web-based mapping platform to map their "geographies of embodiment". X-Ray Mapping results revealed that 49% of youth place-embodiment locations were spatially outside of their residential census tract-with 75% of positive place-embodiment locations outside, and 66% of negative place-embodiment locations inside. Overall, 67% of youth and adult positive place-embodiment locations were outside of their residential census tract. Through mapping "geographies of embodiment" via participatory methods like X-Ray Mapping, we can gain greater insight into what is embodied (i.e. specific experiences/exposures), and where (i.e. spatially-specific). These gains could improve development of quantitative place-health metrics and enhance efforts to uncover/intervene on the "pathways of embodiment"-specifically, those elements of local social, political, economic, and environmental contexts that constitute expressions of social inequality.


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