Narrative and CommunityBuilding: 11.948
CRN classroom

Natasha Freidus and Ceasar McDowell
Office hours to be arranged

Course Description:

Throughout history, story has been used to teach, to entertain, to express, to advocate. and to organize.  It is through the sharing of stories that communities build their identities, pass on traditions, and construct meaning.  This course will examine the role of narrative as a tool for community organizing and development. Current applications of storytelling in a variety of contexts will be discussed and analyzed. This course will also explore the potential of multimedia technology to support the use of narrative in traditionally marginalized communities.  Students will collaborate with community organizations to develop a multimedia narrative.    Please note, multimedia skills are not required for this course.


Required Texts:

All texts will be also available on reserve at Rotch Library, other readings will be available on PDF format on Stellar site


-         Written autobiography – Write 3-5 pages about yourself
o       Due by email before midnight the night of  Monday September 8 (or uploaded to class site).
-         Conduct an audio oral history with a family member, or with the person of your choice about family.
o       Due September 24. Digital format encouraged, all formats acceptable, 5 minutes maximum.
-         Create a brief photo essay of a community you have lived in.
o       Due October 8. Digital or hard copy acceptable. Hard copies must be smaller than 8x11. Maximum 8 pages/slides.

-         Project Planning form due October 8

-         Project Proposal due October 15

-         Final project due December 10

-         Final viewing to be scheduled

            Due every other week beginning September 17 to course site. 




Readings and Examples from Practice


Week 1

September 3


Narrative and Community Practice



Week 2

September 10


Why narrative?


Required reading

• Dyson and Genishi
The Need for Story Chapter One
Kearney, Richard, On Stories: Thinking in Action  Routledge, London:2002.  Chapter One, Where do Stories come from
• Davis, Joseph. Stories of Change, Chapter one.


Autobiography due

Week 3

September 17


Stories and the individual,

Required Reading/preparation

• Bruner. “Life as Narrative” Chapter 3 in The Need for Story

• Eakin, Paul John.  How our Lives Become Stories. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1999. Chapter Three

View compact disc

• Paull, Caleb. Self-Perceptions and Social Connections: Empowerment through Digital Storytelling in Adult Education Choose either Chapter 4 or 5 and view accompanying story.


Journal Entry due

Week 4

September 24


Stories to record history:


Required reading

• Slim and Thompson. Listening for a Change: Oral History and Community Development. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1995. Chapters 1 and 4

• Shostak, Marjorie. “What the Wind Won’t Take Away” in Perks and Thompson (eds.) The Oral History Reader London: Routledge, 1998. Ch 34.

Recommended reading

• Wigginton, Elliot. Refuse to Stand Silently By. New York: Doubleday, 1991.

• Relying on Ourselves, the Spirit of Rural Community Development

Required viewing:  Choose 1 of the 3 websites

• What did you do during the War, grandma


Oral history due

Week 5

October 1








Stories as Art

Part 1: Traditional arts

Jane Sapp, Guest speaker


Required Reading

• Belenky, Mary. A Tradition that Has no Name. New York: Basic Books, 1999.  Chapter 9, pp. 229-258.

• Community Arts Network. Connecting Californians: Finding the Art of Community Change

Recommended Reading

• Boal, Augusto.  Theater of the Oppressed New York: Theater Communications Group, 1970. Chapter 4, “Poetics of the Oppressed”.

Required Viewing

Jane Sapp documentary. Screening to be held out of class

Journal Entry due

Week 6

October 8

Stories and Art

Part 2 : Technology

Liz Canner, Guest Speaker (tentative)

Required Reading

• Lambert, Joe. Digital Storytelling Introduction and Chapters 1-3

• Freidus, Natasha and Hlubinka, Michelle. “Digital Stories for Reflective Practice in Communities of Learners”

Required Viewing

• Symphony of a City

• Capture Wales


Photo essay and project planning sheet due

Week 7

October 15

Stories and Social Movements:

The Civil Rights Movement

Required Reading

• Davis, Joseph (ed.) Stories of Change: Narrative and Social Movements Chapter 2, pp. 31-52 “Plotting Protest” and chapter 9, pp.203-229, “Movement advocates as Battered Women’s Storytellers”

Eyes on the Prize Viewing in class

Final Project Proposals Due

Week 8

October 22

Stories for advocacy and organizing


Required Reading(Choose 2 of the following 4)

Pule, Lyn, Telling it Like it Was

• Chapter 4, “Getting our Histories Straight” in Stories of Change

• Valley Interfaith Case Study: and Chapter 3, page 8-10.

• Penchaszadeh, Analía. Tell me a story: How a community-based organization learns from its history through reflective storytelling Masters Thesis, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT, 1994. Chapter 2 pp 29-57.

Required Viewing

•  Third World Majority

• Broken Sky www.duedu/~mimcdowe/index_flash.html


Journal Entries due

Week 9

October 29

Stories and Youth

Required Reading:

• Miller, Peggy and Mehler, Robert. “The Power of Personal Storytelling in Families and Kindergartens” pp. 38-52 in The Need for Story

• Heath, Shirley Brice. “Stories as Ways of Acting Together” pp.206-220 in The Need for Story

Required Viewing (Choose two of three)

• Llano Grande Project http://www.pbs.or/pov/pov2002/borders/pdf/pov_borderrs_lesson_two.pdf

• SoundPortraits

• Alaskan Native Youth Cultural Community Building



Week 10

November 5

Stories to understand conflict


Required Reading and Viewing

• Appreciative Inquiry and Community Development (read text and view stories)

• Japanese and Arab American’s stories

• Arab-Israeli Stories


Journal Entries due

Week 11

November 12

Stories and Urban Planning

Required Reading

• Forrester, John. The Deliberative Practitioner  MIT Press, Cambridge: 2001. Chapters One and Two.

• Simmons, Michelle. “The Role of Narrative in the Process of Inclusion” in McDonald (eds.) Building Diverse Communities, Applications of Communications Research Cresskill, NJ : Hampton Press, 2002.

Stories and Sustainability reading (on order)

Required Viewing

• A New Harlem Gentry in Search of its Latte

• Camfield Estates Stories

website to be announced.


Storyboards Due

Week 12

November 19

Review and discussion session



Week 13

November 26

No Class



Week 14

December 3

Workshop and Reflection



Week 15

December 10

Last Day of Class

Final Presentations, Part One


Final Presentations Due