CFP: Life Writing and Human Rights: Genres of Testimony Deadline: 15 February 2011, Event: 11 - 13 July 2011

full name / name of organization: 
Kingston University London/University of Minnesota

Life Writing and Human Rights: Genres of Testimony

The stories we tell about our lives and the lives of those around us leave footprints across history. That history can be of personal, familial or of widespread political and public importance. Whether public or private, the telling of and the listening to life narratives is a concern of increasing importance across a range of disciplines, professions and practices.
Since the end of the First World War, politics has been increasingly expressed as and measured against norms categorised as human rights. The individual in relation to the state and states in their interactions with one another are, in theory and sometimes also in practice, governed by the legal architecture of human rights frameworks at national, regional and global levels. These same processes may come into play in cases of domestic or private human rights abuses, where the victim must make public their suffering in order for it to be recognised, and for justice to be done. The bulk of human rights defence and advocacy is based on making acts open to legal process. For this to happen we need victims to testify. We need witnesses to write their autobiographies and memoirs and we need the media to investigate and report on atrocities. We need perpetrators to confess. We need the life stories of all those involved.

What is the relationship between these two concerns: Human Rights and Life Narratives?

The Conference Organisers, Annette Kobak, Patricia Hampl, Eva Hoffman, Meg Jensen, Philip Spencer and Brian Brivati, developed this event in collaboration with writers, academics, human rights activists, historians and filmmakers including Ben Barkow, David Charters, Catherine Cissé, Rachel Cusk, Jim Dawes, Barbara Frey, Vesna Goldsworthy, Margaretta Jolly, Rob Lemkin, Max Saunders, and George Szirtes, many of whom will be participating in the conference itself.

Additional speakers to include Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson

We invite the submission of abstracts and suggestions for potential papers, workshops, round‐table discussions, panels,performances and works in progress that will add to our understanding of the processes involved in the shaping of genres of testimony, from the collection of eyewitness accounts of atrocities to the archiving of propaganda, letters and ephemera from scenes of human rights abuse, print and broadcast media coverage before during and after an event, as
well as creative post‐conflict reflections voiced in memoirs, poetry, psychoanalytic narratives, the dramatic and visual arts. We are looking for work that will debate, among other things, the following questions

  • How do the processes involved in the telling and compiling of testimony in extreme situations of crimes against humanity affect our perception of these events and our ability to prevent them?
  • How are such events named and changed in that naming?
  • How are they described and what happens to that description in the legal, media, political and emotional life of the event over time?

We would particularly welcome papers, panels, workshops, performances or readings that:

  • Come from and/or explore mainstream or more obscure genres of testimony
  • Come from professionals engaged with human rights practice and/or come from diverse disciplinary
  • Present coherent interdisciplinary and inter‐professional engagements and/or combine formal
    presentations with elements of performance and creativity
  • Offer conference delegates suggestions for future practical actions in the prevention of human rights
    abuses and in the treatment of perpetrators

Please provide a 500 word abstract and a brief bio via our webpage by 15 February 2011:
Questions regarding CLN may be sent to Dr Meg Jensen, Director: