Wedges: Stories as Simple Machines

Wedges: Stories as Simple Machines

I have been working on this paper in my head for years, because it is the story of both how I believe stories can and should work when we are doing research with vulnerable or otherwise marginalized or even hidden populations, and also the story of being a researcher who is also a mother doing research in which her child is the “wedge.” As a single mother of three, getting out into the world to do research has almost always meant working around my wedges in this way. Politically, putting my motherhood and vulnerability forward into my field work has been important, and relevant for the work of gathering stories of this kind. It is a complicated web that I have worked and worked, like Penelope labouring over Laertes’ shroud, and unworked, for years. I wrote it and unwrote it, thinking about scholarly work in the context of life’s turbulence, until finally an opportunity came to bring it to a publishable format for Health Promotion Practice’s most recent special issue, which can be found in its entirety here.

Here’s the abstract!

This piece of comics-based research (CBR) details the use of arts-based methods in ongoing research with young transgender or otherwise gender diverse children. Drawing from both the anthropology of childhood and draw–write–tell research in public health, the central innovation of this methodology hinges on gathering children’s narratives in a less coercive manner that holds their stories intact and produces better, more trustworthy research. Discussion includes problematizing and problem-solving contemporary “child friendly” methodology, exploring the role of the child informant in qualitative research, and illustrating how arts methods can inform deeper understanding of participant data when applied in a systematic format. To access the entire comics-based research article, visit the supplemental material section at

My piece is comics-based, and may be one of the first comics-based pieces in HPP. And, in keeping with what we know about arts- and comics-based research, I needed to tell the story in pictures to really tell it in its most communicable and clear way, with all the complexities and pain and confusion and flashes of understanding intact. Or at least I hope so. Here’s the link to my piece in particular, and from here you can follow breadcrumbs to the other pieces. Enjoy the read. It was a delight. You can also follow HPP on Twitter @TheHPPJournal

Here is what the editors said, which was very nice:

Our first section explores the ethics of participation and representation in CNI processes in projects using comics, graphic novels, and story booths. We open with “Wedges: Stories as Simple Machines.” Sally Campbell Galman presents the Gender MOXIE project, which used comics-based research to explore the experiences and resiliencies of transgender, nonbinary, and other gender-diverse young people. We have chosen to begin this collection with a predominantly visual contribution because it perfectly encapsulates how CNI approaches cultivate empathy, resistance, and hope—among participants and viewing audiences alike.

Galman, S. C. (2021). Wedges: Stories as simple machines. Health Promotion Practice

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