Embodied Ways of Storying the Self: A Systematic Review of Body-Mapping


  • Adèle de Jager University of New South Wales
  • Anna Tewson University of New South Wales
  • Bryn Ludlow York University
  • Katherine Boydell University of New South Wales




body-mapping, embodiment, narrative, participatory research, knowledge translation, qualitative research, arts-based, visual methods


The first recorded instance of whole-body-mapping for research purposes is a comparison of women's identity and the concept of the reproductive system in rural Jamaica and the UK. It was later developed in a structured workshop process in South Africa to give voice to the experiences of HIV positive individuals, decrease stigma, and advocate for provision of anti-retroviral medication. Whole-body mapping involves tracing around a person's body to create a life-sized outline, which is filled in during a creative and reflective process, producing an image representing multiple aspects of their embodied experience. Body-mapping holds promise as a qualitative, participatory research method to produce and disseminate knowledge. However, it is unclear how it is being used, by whom, and in what context. This article presents the findings of a systematic review of body-mapping in the published literature. The review identifies various implementations of body-mapping in research, therapeutic, and educational contexts. The degree of emphasis on social justice, knowledge translation, research, and therapeutic benefit varies a great deal, as does the intent and use of body-mapping. While body-mapping holds promise, more empirical investigation would be valuable in determining its characteristics in research, clinical, educative and political spheres.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1602225


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Author Biographies

Adèle de Jager, University of New South Wales

Adèle DE JAGER is a research officer at the Black Dog Institute and clinical psychologist in private practice. As part of her doctorate, she employed narrative analysis to investigate the lived experience of recovery in people who hear voices. Results were published in Qualitative Health Research and disseminated by informal means (e.g., pamphlet). Her work at the Black Dog Institute focuses on qualitative research into psychosis and arts-based methods in research and dissemination. She co-facilitates the Sydney Narrative Inquiry Research Group.

Anna Tewson, University of New South Wales

Anna TEWSON is a writer and research assistant at the Black Dog Institute. She writes poetry and short stories, and enjoys blending elements of the metaphysical with the real. Anna aspires to use the skills learned in her degree to open an all-inclusive space for the public, in which they can tell new and different stories through writing, drama and music. Her work at the Black Dog Institute is centered around arts-based research and dissemination.

Bryn Ludlow, York University

Bryn A. LUDLOW is a second-year doctoral student at York University in the Department of Communication Studies, York & Ryerson Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture, Toronto, Canada. In 2012, she completed a Master of Arts degree in health & aging from McMaster University in the Department of Health, Aging & Society, and applied the visual research method of body-mapping in the dialysis unit with five geriatric inpatients to learn about their experiences of receiving daily (six day/week) hemodialysis therapy at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. Her research and teaching interests specifically address themes of curating in art and science; affect and technology; and visual and health communication.

Katherine Boydell, University of New South Wales

Katherine M. BOYDELL is professor of mental health at the Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales, Australia. Her research is both methodological and substantive; substantively, it focuses on understanding the complex pathways to care for young people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, the use of new technologies in child and youth mental health, and the "science" of knowledge translation. Methodologically, it focuses on advancing qualitative inquiry, specifically, in the area of arts-based health research. Katherine explores the use of a wide variety of art genres in the creation and dissemination of empirical research, including documentary film, dance, digital storytelling, found poetry, installation art and body mapping. Her work takes a critical perspective and focuses on the theoretical, methodological and ethical challenges of engaging in arts-based health research. She has published more than 100 journal articles and edited a recent text with Bruce FERGUSON titled "Hearing Voices: Qualitative Inquiry in Early Psychosis" (Wilfred Laurier University Press: Ontario, Canada).




How to Cite

de Jager, A., Tewson, A., Ludlow, B., & Boydell, K. (2016). Embodied Ways of Storying the Self: A Systematic Review of Body-Mapping. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-17.2.2526



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