Untangling spatiality: On the role of researcher performativity in community geography pedagogy

Authors: Candice Wilfong*, Vanderbilt University, Adele Malpert, Vanderbilt University, Maury Nation, Vanderbilt University, Karissa Deiter, Oasis Center
Topics: Applied Geography, Geography Education, Geographic Thought
Keywords: community geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Capitol Ballroom 1, Hyatt Regency, Fourth Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Citizen scientists and researchers outside of geography are increasingly participating in geographic research. While this engagement can lead to new, promising cross-disciplinary collaborations, it also presents certain challenges. In this article, we reflect on our participation in a cross-disciplinary community geography project on youth safety involving community psychologists, GIS/urban geographers, positive youth development practitioners, and high schoolers. Using a materialist approach, we tell the story of the evolution of our project’s research design through the five distinct methods that we have employed over the project’s first three years and answer the following questions: What tensions emerge from community-engaged spatial research when researchers and community partners are differently positioned by discipline and role? How do these tensions push on understandings of justice? We found that at the core of our tensions were conflicting assumptions about spatiality acquired through experience and discipline and how best to build an effective work style by unpacking our situatedness. Ultimately, these tensions allowed us to move from a data-centric idea of justice (i.e., producing data for social justice) to spatial justice (i.e., fostering critical spatial thinking for community action) in our research design. We hope this article is useful for those initiating cross-disciplinary spatial research and/or interested in fostering spatial learning in research-community settings.

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