Writing Activism

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10am - 11am Refugee Tales and Relational Storytelling, keynote from Refugee Tales contributors, with a response from Sophie Kelly, Edge Hill.

11:20 - 12:00 Backlash Roundtable

Many of the writers and activists about whom we write faced significant resistance and even backlash to their work. This discussion will be about how we might study and write about these challenges, particularly in a contemporary context of popularism, ‘hostile environments’, online trolling and abuse. What might our writing practices say about our own positionality, the choices we make in representing these lives, and what, if any, personal consequences we face?

1pm - 2pm Eve Wedderburn, a community activist from North Kensington and doctoral researcher, in conversation with Katherine Collins, Oxford.

We will discuss issues relating to continuing activism in North Kensington, including the impact on the community of Andrew O’Hagan’s essay The Tower, published in the LRB around the time of the first anniversary of the fire at Grenfell. We will interrogate the language and practices of activist spaces; writing as activism; and writing about activism: including tone, register, code switching, and the potential for violence in an academic positionality.

2pm - 2:45 Exploring Contradictions Roundtable

The discussion will explore why actions or statements made in public might contradict private convictions, and how activists (and those who seek to write about them) negotiate these tensions. How and why might an individual’s beliefs, statements, and actions be be erased or passed over as part of an individual or movement’s post-hoc self-representation? What are the responsibilities of the archivist, researcher, writer, and others in recovering, understanding, shaping, how these contradictions are presented and represented?

3pm - 3:45 Working with Testimonial Narratives Roundtable

The discussion will be dedicated to the methodological challenges of writing activist lives and working with (auto)biographical texts. The discussion will address issues such as the ethical implications of life-writing as a method; the politics of knowledge production in (writing) activists’ life narratives; evaluations of positionality, agency and power in such narratives; how to reconcile the positions of scholar and activist; the relationship between activist life-writing and identity politics; the impact of medium and genre on testimonial narratives.

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Convened by Dr Katherine Collins, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, University of Oxford; and Dr Sandra Mayer, Hertha-Firnberg Research Fellow, University of Vienna. 


TORCH Global South Visiting Professors and Fellows

Humanities & Identities

The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, OCLW

Contact email: katherine.collins@wolfson.ox.ac.uk

Audience: Open to all