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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


GREYLING, Franci. "So, who is blind?" Embodied space in locative narratives by people with visual impairment. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.4-2, pp.1386-1409. ISSN 2224-7912.

Mobile media are increasingly providing new ways to tell untold stories and to connect them to places where readers, through their physical presence and participation, can experience the stories and the place in concrete terms, thus developing appreciation for the hidden and forgotten historical, cultural and personal narratives of a place, of periods, and of people (Farman 2015; Rettberg 2019; Page 2014; Barber 2016). This article explores the embodied space in a locative literature project undertaken in collaboration with people with visual impairment. The Pioneer Story Collection installed on the school grounds of a school for visually impaired learners consists of stories, narratives and poems by learners and former learners of the school in question. The accessibilising of the contributions entailed, among other things, that the selected contributions were read and recorded, and that a digital interface which caters for sighted, visually impaired and blind users was developed. The Pioneer Stories were distributed by means of QR codes, which, combined with information in braille and large print, were posted at the identified locations. This article explores how the Pioneer Stories as locative narratives could potentially provide insight into these writers' specific experience of place, and how the stories could contribute towards readers' deepened experience of the place, and to the visibility of stories, bodies, and communities. To understand the Pioneer Stories within this context, a framework is composed in which the concepts of embodied space and emplacement are discussed with reference to the multisensory nature of observation (Hersch & Johnson 2008); emplaced writing (Smith 2012); narratives of personal experience (Page 2014; Plummer 2001; Labov 1979); the ecosomatic approach toward disability (Cella 2019); and the experience of the embodied and emplaced reader-participant (Farman 2015; Greyling 2018). Four stories from the collection are analysed and discussed on the basis of this framework. The Pioneer Story Project draws attention to the importance of awareness of a spectrum of sensory experiences, the intertwined and relational process of placemaking, and the central role and agency of the embedded writer in placemaking. With regard to the notion of giving a voice to marginalised communities and the making visible of bodies, stories, places and communities, it is evident from the stories that the writers and narrators in the Pioneer Story Collection took agency of their stories and narratives, thereby utilising various ways in which they themselves, as well as the place, the people, the community and identities could be made visible in and through their stories and poems. This is achieved in the texts by, among other things, the choice and application of a narrative strategy, the narrative structure, the content, the reproduction of experiences and events and the use of style and language. What is striking, especially with regard to the narratives, is the construction of narrative identity, the key role which the community plays/played in the narrators' lives, and the collective and relational process of place attachment. In addition, one is made aware of the expressed or implied need for the narrators to be fully accepted as belonging to the larger community of fellow humans. By means of the experience of the locative narrative at a particular place, the emplaced reader-participant can become aware of the narrators' embodied and emplaced experiences, and can thus imagine the places, people and community for themselves, on the basis of perspectives offered by the narrator. The experience can contribute to the reader-participant's awareness of the embodiment and perception of (other) persons with visual impairments, and can also lead to a greater awareness and intensification of their own sensory experience and bodily emplacement. Generally speaking, the project can promote empathy and understanding in various ways. Locative literary projects can indeed contribute towards widening and enriching the world of writers as well as reader-participants, by means of contemporary mobile technologies. The ideal would be to develop a digital platform and application that would enable communities to undertake and publish their own locative literature projects, in the places that matter to them.

Palabras clave : locative narratives; locative literature; mobile stories; visual impairment; embodied space; embodiment; emplacement; emplaced writing; life narratives; personal narratives; narrative identity; multi-sensory observation; narratives; community; placemaking; ecosomatic approach.

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