(Re)Visualizing “Freedom:” Understanding Place through Narrative Mapping

Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Suellynn Duffey


Lauren Obermark

Benjamin Torbert


This study uses ethnographic research methods to analyze narratives of St. Louis residents through interviews as a way to understand identity in place. To offer a multilayered and more in-depth view of the city’s identity and how that, in turn, constructs individual identity, this project places narratives alongside historical documents and government legislature, and then utilizes digital mapping to spatially reconstruct individual memory of St. Louis. The interviews uncover coded-language and spatial constructions that impact mobility in the city and demonstrate issues of access for black residents, which is supported through inquiry into societal conditions from the 1940s to present day. This research shows that St. Louis acts as a locale in which we can expose systemic and deliberate marginalization, yet the city offers two critical views: 1) a view that exposes St. Louis’s allowance of systemic racism to continue, and 2) at the very same time, a Midwestern city as a site feeding a drive for national activism.

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