The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday March 30th

UNC doctoral candidate performs geography research

A UNC Ph.D. candidate is bringing a South American community to the stage on Monday.

Chris Courtheyn, a doctoral candidate in the department of geography at UNC, lived with and studied a peace community in San José de Apartadó, Colombia. 

See Courtheyn's performance

6 p.m. tonight

Gerrard Hall

The community's mission was to survive and stay on its land, a difficult task because of the war happening in Colombia at the time. 

Courtheyn found that this community had a lot to teach the rest of the world.

“This community is a really amazing case of a way that a group of people has resisted losing their livelihood,” Courtheyn said.

Courtheyn decided that instead of telling the community's stories in the form of a traditional ethnographic study, he would present his findings in the form of a performance.

Courtheyn worked with a team of critical and performance ethnographers to develop a series of performances that reenact excerpts from interviews Courtheyn conducted with the community or experiences that he had with the community.

“It’s a way of trying to present research findings in a way that is ethical and also really effective and creative,” Courtheyn said. “When we perform things, we produce knowledge and understand the world by feeling.”

Bailey Recktenwald, a geography major, said Courtheyn’s performance can be a great way to help people conceptualize geography.

“That could be a great tool for geographers — to illustrate what they do,” Recktenwald said. “Watching a performance could force you to think about these communities and interactions within them; having a physical interpretation can bring these stories to life and help people understand what geography is.”

Courtheyn’s performance, titled “Memory is the Strength of Our Resistance: A Performance Geography of Peace, Memory and Territory in the San Jose Peace Community, Colombia”, will be shown on tonight at 6:00 p.m in Gerrard Hall.

UNC student Jessica Bolin said the performance could be an interesting alternative to traditional ethnography.

“Alternative performances like that allow you to break through the clutter of academia,” Bolin said. “It makes the stories a lot more direct. You can’t avoid it if you see it.”


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