Mapping Bodies and Space: How Faculty & Staff Engage in Service-Learning in Durham

ABOVE: Megan Stanley, an MSW Intern at Duke's Center for Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation, poses with the map she created at the Critical Cartography of Space and Place workshop.

In Spring 2020, faculty and staff gathered to think in new ways about their connection with Durham in the workshop, “Critical Cartography of Space and Place,” led by Tim Stallmann and Tia Hall.

“The point of the workshop was to invite people to engage in space in the many different dimensions they experience it, and to dig into their own experience to think more critically about Durham and about Duke’s role in Durham,” Stallmann said.

Stallmann and Hall opened the discussion by sharing a perspective on land from a Lakota Nation elder, and then led the group through a variety of mapping exercises: Mapping Physical Space, Mapping Time, and Mapping Our Bodies.

Mapping Physical Space:

ON LEFT: Chi Vo, Program Coordinator with Duke's Office of Durham & Community Affairs, participated in a group exercise that challenged participants to create a map that tracked the physical location of their day-to-day activities and examine how those trajectories overlapped with those of their colleagues and the communities they serve:

"We pinpointed spots in Durham where we live, where we play, where we thrive in our everyday lives. We also looked at where our service-learning opportunities are and what our connections and intentions are in those spaces that we are fortunate enough to be invited into."

Mapping Time: Participants mapped the ways Durham has changed over the past 10 years, how it might change in the next 10 years, and how those changes may effect their current work in Durham.

"Regardless of time, whether it was when I was 6 looking up at the Durham skyline, 12 looking out into the Eno River, whether I was in grade school or college, and even now as I find my roots here again - each time, I had a place here. When I think about the students that I work with, I hope that those who are staying here for 2 years, 4 years, who might not be staying forever, I hope they know that they have a place in these spaces too. That they belong." - Chi Vo, Program Coordinator with the Duke Office of Durham & Community Affairs

Mapping Time:

Kimmie Garner, Assistant Director of Duke Service-Learning, mapped her trajectory through time as an undergraduate student at UNC 10 years ago to her present time as a program coordinator on Duke's East Campus. Her map reflects hope for the future.
“Mapping my engagement with service-learning 10 years ago in Chapel Hill and today in Durham illustrated how long it takes to truly know the nuances and complexities of the community in which you’re working and how that sense of place is shaped by the areas you do and do not frequent. Tim and Tia conveyed the importance of recognizing how where you do and do not go is not something to be categorized as “good” or “bad,” but rather a dynamic to remain in tune with and keep within your awareness to determine if or how you might want to expand the confines of your own map.”

Mapping the Body:

Our Bodies, Ourselves: How do the stories in our brains influence our bodies and the energy we project out into the world? Workshop facilitator Tia Hall believes building more capacity to be fully present in both mind and body can help faculty, staff, and students become more effective at authentically connecting with the people we serve.

Classrooms, and academia in general, often favor a “from the neck up” mental processing that neglects the body and keeps us up in our heads. To remedy this tendency, Mapping the Body participants looked at community engagement from a somatic lens, exploring how habitual modes of thinking, reading, writing, and speaking effect how we engage with communities on an energetic level.

First, the group created a map by tracing their body on a giant sheet of paper. Next, participants imagined a few typical community-engagement scenarios they encounter in their everyday work and applied color-coded dots on the map to pinpoint precisely where in their bodies they felt anxiety, discomfort, excitement, or anticipation. The exercise helped faculty and staff examine the embodied ways our experiences in the world impact our physical selves and vice versa. The group reflected on ways to cultivate a more expansive somatic awareness into their classes and community-engaged work.

Christian Ferney has recently started incorporating pedagogical techniques focused on embodiment into his classroom and learned more about how to apply those same lessons to the community-engaged work he engages in as Program Director at Kenan Institute for Ethics.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to really see and feel that insight, and I plan to fold it into some of our work in the coming year,” he says.

By creating a visual record of every day events, Stallmann and Hall opened the space to acknowledge the way service-learning—and other Duke programs—shape Durham as a whole.

“I love the conversation that happened today about the space, recognizing that Durham is often shifting,” Hall said. “How are we shifting? How are we expanding within the city?”

But the mapping exercises are also meant to be used in classrooms, offering attendees tools they can use to explore similar questions with their students.

“Academics are wonderful,” Hall explained, “but they also kind of trap us or encase us in a certain way. This workshop is pushing us beyond those boundaries. I want us to explore and see more than what is right before us. How do we get a sense of what’s happening within our communities?”

This workshop was the first in a series called “Making Place Matter,” which runs through the Spring 2020 semester.

Tim and Tia can design a custom cartography workshop tailored for your course. Contact them for more information.

Tim Stallmann, Research Action Design (RAD). RAD uses community-led research, collaborative design of technology and media, and secure digital strategies to build the power of grassroots social movements. We are a worker-owned collective. Our projects are grounded in the needs and leadership of communities in the struggle for justice and liberation.

Tia Hall is a native of Washington, D.C. and graduate of Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. Tia works from an ideology that all people have assets and strengths that contribute to the wholeness and overall health of their community. Tia currently serves as managing member of Yinsome Group LLC, (racial equity and cultural consulting firm), the director of the Harm Free Zone Documentary and Book Study Series for SpiritHouse Inc, the Community Research Director for the Bull City 150 Project and member of The City of Durham’s Racial Equity Task Force.

A big thank you to Trinity College of Arts & Sciences whose support makes it possible for Duke Service-Learning to connect academic programming with community to promote social equity and change!