Undocumented Workers in Ontario

Body Mapping

Release of New Guide for Researchers










Gastaldo, D., Magalhães, L., Carrasco, C., and Davy, C. (2012). Body-Map Storytelling as Research: Methodological considerations for telling the stories of undocumented workers through body mapping.  Retrieved from: http://www.migrationhealth.ca/undocumented-workers-ontario/body-mapping.

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About the Guide

Body-Map Storytelling as Research is a guide for researchers interested in using our one-to-one body mapping approach for research purposes. In our study with undocumented workers in the GTA, a body-map storytelling technique, involving a series of drawing and painting exercises, was used to create life-size body images or “body maps” to help participants to tell their migration stories and visually depict the impact of being undocumented on their health and wellbeing. 

Body-Map Exhibition at Toronto City Hall, June 2012

Exhibition Overview

Body-Map Storytelling Presentation


What is Body Mapping?

Body  maps  can  be  broadly  defined  as life-size  human  body  images,  while  “body mapping”  is  the  process  of  creating  body maps  using  drawing,  painting  or  other  art-based  techniques  to  visually  represent  aspects  of  people’s  lives,  their  bodies  and  the world  they  live  in. Body  mapping  is  a  way of telling stories, much like totems that con-tain  symbols  with  different  meanings,  but whose significance can only be understood in relation to the creator’s overall story and experience.

What is Body-Map Storytelling?

Body-map storytelling is primarily a data generating  research  method  used  to  tell  a story  that  visually  reflects  social,  political and  economic  processes,  as  well  as  individuals’  embodied  experiences  and  meanings  attributed  to  their  life  circumstances that  shape  who  they  have  become.  Body-map  storytelling  has  the  potential  to  connect  times  and  spaces  in  people’s  lives  that are otherwise seen as separate and distal in more traditional, linear accounts. The final outcome  of  the  body-map  storytelling  process  is  a  mapped  story  composed  of  3  elements:  a  testimonio  (a  brief  story  narrated in  the  first  person),  a  life-size  body  map, and  a  key  to  describe  each  visual  element found on the map. This  technique  can  also  help  stimulate dialogue  and  share  knowledge  with  general audiences given that the mapped story brings  research  participants’  stories  to  life through  combined  visual  and  oral  media. As  a  product,  mapped  stories  offer  a  creative  and  potentially  visually-compelling approach for knowledge translation and exchange.

Presentation on Body-Map Storytelling

Body-map storytelling as research: Documenting physical, emotional and social health as a journey. Denise Gastaldo, Associate Professor, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing; Associate Director, Centre for Critical Qualitative Health Research (CQ), September 26, 2012. Podcast