Cuerpo Territorio

Submitted by Višnja Kisić, University of Arts Belgrade
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Cuerpo-territorio is a participative knowledge sharing method rooted in South American practices, as well as indigenous, decolonial and feminist ontologies which understand knowledge, bodies and territories as united and interconnected. The methods use hands-on, visual ways to co-produce knowledge among participants. Namely, participants draw the territory on their bodies, in ways that take into account both their knowledge of the territory and their experiences of living in it. It can be used as a method to reflect on experiences among participants, share them and advocate for changes, but it can also be used as a participative research method. It is specifically well suited when dealing with sensitive political topics, with experiences of trauma, as well as with those in which participants should connect their bodies and feelings to wider surroundings and territory.

In which way is this method alternative? 

In cuerpo-territorio method, knowledge is co-constructed with participants whose voices and experiences are key sources of knowledge, instead of transferred from teachers to learners; it is embodied and situated, instead of abstract and de-territorialised; it takes into account affective and emotional aspects of knowing, instead of just verbal or written. Also, the method is used for wider advocacy on issues relevant to participants, so it is simultaneously deeply intimate and political.

In which context was the method developed?

Cuerpo-territorio (body territory) is a method developed within communitarian feminism in South America. It is an indigenous feminist framework that supersedes the individual and restitutes it within a communal subject agency, with an underlining idea that experiences of the body and the territory are codependent and simultaneous. The method has been used for gathering and analysing data by feminist collectives organized for the defense of territory against the extractive industry as well as in relatiod to gender-based violence in South America. Recently it is recognised within social movements in the Global North as well specially within feminist and ecological struggles. Therefore, it is now being used in climate change camps and workshops in Western Europe.

Requirements for applying the method

The most important requirement for this method is that trust among all participants in the process is ensured as well as that the safe space is provided for participants to share their experiences. This requires confidentiality about knowledge produced and shared in the process of applying this method, including when participants agree that they will use the knowledge in particular form for further public dissemination and advocacy.

Settings and participants the method is best suited for

Even though the method has decolonial feminist background, it is suited for diverse contexts, professional backgrounds and settings. It can be useful in pedagogical contexts in which the aim is to go out of the cerebral verbal and abstracted accounts on knowledge and re-root participants and their relationships with their own emotions, bodies, and surroundings. It is a good way to reconnect with the land and reembody the territory one inhabits, in a way re-indigenizing oneself. It is also a useful method for talking about physical, emotional and psychological trauma in a holistic manner in a way that acknowledges not only one’s experiences but one’s connection with their wider context and territory.

Experiences with the method

I heard about the method while doing a research in Colombia, and more specifically in a pedagogical artistic seminar in Quibdo, Choco in 2019. Some of the workshops there were using this particular method or were making slight adjustments to it (drawing the territory but also exploring it and your experiences through body percussions and music; or drawing vulvas in relation to body-territory and exploring sexual violence and empowerment both intimately and socio-politically). However, since then, I haven’t tested the method so far, I was just reading further about it.

Additional references

Sofia Zaragocin & Martina Angela Caretta (2020): Cuerpo-Territorio: A Decolonial Feminist Geographical Method for the Study of Embodiment, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2020.1812370
Colectivo Miradas Críticas del Territorio desde el Feminismo (2017): Mapeando el cuerpo-territorio. Guía metodológica para mujeres que defienden sus territorios, Quito.
Climate change camp in Leipzig, Germany 2019 program: