Body-Map Storytelling as a Health Research Methodology: Blurred Lines Creating Clear Pictures

Denise Gastaldo, Natalia Rivas-Quarneti, Lilian Magalhaes


In this article we review the literature on body-mapping (BM) as an approach to health research in order to systematize recent advancements and to contribute to its development. We conducted a critical narrative synthesis of the literature published until September 2016 guided by two questions: 1. How has BM been utilized in health research? 2. How does BM advance a decolonization agenda? Twenty-seven studies in English, Spanish, and Portuguese were analyzed. Most of them were published between 2011 and 2016 and were conducted in South Africa, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Chile, and USA. They narrate stories of marginalized groups and commonly focus on the social determinants of health. Data generation, analysis, and knowledge mobilization strategies differ considerably. Recent developments show that body-mapping is a visual, narrative, and participatory methodology that has several names and is used unevenly by health researchers. Despite its diversity, core methodological elements reveal that participants are considered knowledgeable, reflexive individuals who can better articulate their complex life journeys when painting and drawing their bodies and social circumstances. The decolonization of health research occurs when these unlikely protagonists tell their stories producing counter-hegemonic discourses to exclusionary capitalist, patriarchal and colonialist rationalities. We call this methodology body-map storytelling.


body map; qualitative methodology; qualitative health research; arts-based research; visual methods; transformative methods; postcolonial; marginalized; stigmatized participants

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Copyright (c) 2018 Denise Gastaldo, Natalia Rivas-Quarneti, Lilian Magalhaes

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