University of Massachusetts Amherst

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In “Hear Our Stories,” we prioritize uprooted young parenting Latinas through digital storytelling.

Digital storytelling is a unique way to make a short video. A digital story is a powerful and brief visual narrative. It is usually focused on a moment in someone’s life and is told in first-person voice, using concise words and images.

In the summer and fall of 2013, we conducted four digital storytelling workshops at The Care Center, which served as our primary site for data collection. The workshops were facilitated by the Center for Digital Storytelling and WGBY staff. 

An orientation session at the beginning of each workshop introduced the project and digital storytelling process, and focused specifically on bringing personal stories into the public realm for media and strategic communications purposes. The four days of the workshop focused on individual and group script work and digital editing. At the end of the workshop, participants screened and discussed their stories, and were asked to complete a post-workshop evaluation. All workshop participants received a DVD of their story.

In addition to the workshops, we conducted in-depth interviews with the young women to understand their lives more fully. Interested participants also engaged in follow-up leadership training, empowerment activities, as well as community forums.

Tailored Curriculum

Eight graduate students were funded as Ford Youth Sexuality Fellows or interns as part of the project. The fellows and interns had the opportunity to enroll in a tailored curriculum, which emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to ethnographic, narrative, and sensory methods — with a topical focus on sexuality and embodiment.

Strategic Health Communication, Public Health 608

This course provides students with a critical understanding of the effects of new/social and mass media in promoting and restricting the achievement of public health promotion goals. Students develop the skills necessary to use media strategically to advance public health policies and social change. The course covers the design, implementation and evaluation of media campaigns to promote public health goals, and examines theories and research on media influences with respect to the potential harmful influences of mass media on human health behaviors. Students also design a digital media-based health communication campaign.

Public Health and Social Justice, Public Health 690F

This course provides an introduction to the topic of public health and social justice. Students conduct an in-depth examination and discussion of the theories of justice, social determinants of health, and learn about community-based participatory research and narrative methods that may be used to address social injustices and public health inequalities. The course is designed to provide students with theoretical principles, methods, and skills essential to plan, implement, and evaluate community development activities.

Reproductive Health: Politics, Rights, and Justice, Public Health 582

This course explores ethnographic approaches to women’s reproductive health issues while looking at reproduction in broader socioeconomic and political contexts. In particular, the class delves into the gendered, racialized, cultural, sexual, and classed dimensions that underlie women’s reproduction — with special attention to the long-term health effects of racism, poverty and sexism. Students in this course gain broad exposure to a number of women’s reproductive health issues and the interdisciplinary theorizing of feminist, medical social scientist, and public health scholars.

Doctoral Seminar: Sensing Public Health, Telling Public Stories, Public Health 892

This seminar is designed to enhance students’ understanding of narrative and multisensory approaches to social research and public health. Because senses ground human experience and interaction, they are fundamental to cultural expression and the medium through which values and practices are socially expressed. Participatory visual and digital methods offer multi-sensory methods for conducting public health research, promoting health, and reaching policymakers and community members alike.

Global Bodies, Anthropology 597

This course tracks on the human body, increasingly an object of anthropological study. The body is rich as a site of meaning and materiality. Similarly, culture inscribes itself on the body in terms of normalization and governance. This course explores relevant issues surrounding the body today. Topics such as personhood, natural vs. artificial bodies, identity and subjectivity (nationality, race, class, sex, gender), domination and marginalization, and policy will be discussed. The class focuses on the body in three main stages: birth, life, and death, with relevant case studies in each stage.

Writing Ethnography, Anthropology 697

This seminar takes ethnography as its object of analysis and its subject of practice. The seminar provides students with tools for thinking through the politics of representation. We examine the ongoing consequences of the representational crisis that plagued ethnography, with vehemence in the 1980s and 1990s, and investigate how and to what degree the genre has recovered. We explore whether we are committed to ethnography as a genre, and if so how and why? In addition, the seminar provides students with a space to practice their own ethnographic writing. In both our reading and writing, we explore conventional as well as experimental forms of representation, including critical ethnography, the ethnographic novel, creative non-fiction, cross-cultural memoir, and digital ethnographies.