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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UMass Amherst: Strategic Authenticity and Voice through Digital Storytelling

Dr. Aline Gubrium, associate professor of community health education in the University of Massachusettes Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, is the lead author of a paper recently published in Sexuality Research & Social Policy. Titled “Strategic authenticity and voice: New ways of seeing and being seen as young mothers through digital storytelling”, the journal article presents findings from Dr. Gubrium and colleagues’ Ford Foundation-funded “Hear Our Stories: Diasporic Youth for Sexual Rights and Justice” project. The article can be found online here.


The “Hear Our Stories” project explores the subjective experience of structural violence and the ways young parenting Latinas embody and respond to these experiences through the medium of digital storytelling. The researchers offer a practical road map for empowering and giving voice to these young women. They also present the context and method behind the four digital storytelling workshops that served as a venue for transforming assumptions about young parenting women and producing novel understandings of teen pregnancy and parenting. Dr. Gubrium and colleagues provide suggestions for an intervention based on what they refer to as “strategic authenticity” as it plays out in storytelling, meaning making, and voice, and implications for policy concerned with social justice and equity.

The young women shared these digital stories at a public event held recently in Holyoke, MA.

“The young women prepared compelling video stories of their lives to share with their peers, the media and the public. They presented their stories in ways very rarely seen before,” says Dr. Gubrium. Holyoke has the highest birth rate in Massachusetts to young women ages 15 to 19. She adds, “Although there are many young parents in the community, they seldom have an opportunity to share their experiences with the public.”

“Hear Our Stories” focuses on Latina women whose families are shifting or uprooted, for example, or who may have gone through the foster care system. The young women use new media to reveal how they sense and negotiate sexual health disparities, in particular, the researchers say.

“We hope to change the rather static conversation on young motherhood and sexuality, health, and rights across generations by putting a human face on policy,” Dr. Gubrium points out.

The researchers joined the Community Adolescent Resources and Education (CARE) Center of Holyoke, the Center for Digital Storytelling, WGBY Television, and others in helping the young parents develop the stories. WGBY Television featured the project on a recent episode of the program “Connecting Point,” which can be viewed here. Additional coverage can be found on the WAMC website and on the Inside UMass website.

[Photo: Dr. Aline Gubrium (center, rear) with the “Hear Our Stories” project team and participants]