Towards a Placescape Approach: Conceptual and Methodological Considerations for Decolonizing the Production of Place-Health Narratives

Authors: Ryan Petteway*, Portland State University, OHSU-PSU School of Public Health
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Geography and Urban Health, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: place and health, participatory, intergenerational, decolonizing methods, ICTs, inequality, placemaking
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Background: Understanding “place” (e.g. “neighborhoods”) and health is a core focus of public health research. Much work to date, however, tends to de-place place-health relationships by not explicitly engaging local/regional social, political, and economic practices/processes that fundamentally shape (socio)spatial distributions of health opportunities/risks (i.e. placemaking mechanisms). That is, this work frequently ignores the manners and mechanisms through which place is actively made, unmade, and remade over time. Moreover, procedural and methodological norms preclude expressions of/actively mask research participants’ agency, discounting/devaluing their knowledge/expertise while simultaneously dispossessing them of their stories/experiences (“data”). In this regard, relationships between researchers and research participants represent not only the re-inscription of social hierarchy, but the reification of place-health research as colonization. Conceptual and methodological modifications are thus fundamental to appropriately frame, assess, and address spatial inequalities in health. Purpose: Drawing from a multi-method (Photovoice, Activity Space Mapping, X-Ray Mapping, Participatory GIS) intergenerational community-based participatory research (CBPR) project on place and health, I will: 1) introduce a “Placescape” conceptual framework and discuss its six core tenets: Needs & Opportunities, Mobility & Bounds, Multi-nodal Place, Power in Place(making), Lifecourse in Place, and Agency in Place(making); 2) highlight the value of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in deepening community participation in the (co)production of place-health narratives; and 3) discuss the role of participatory methods in decolonizing place-health knowledge. Conclusion: Participatory methods anchored within a placescape approach can afford opportunities to democratize—and decolonize—place-health research, and can allow for identification of local/regional placemaking mechanisms implicated in spatial health inequalities.

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