OCLW’s Elleke Boehmer to give the first ‘Indische Letterenlezing’ on the future of the postcolonial past.

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Choreographic Forum – nicht schlafen by Alain Platel / les ballets C de la B

There’s been so much interest in OCLW and DANSOX’s event Dancing Lives, and here is another brilliant event about dance, happening in Sadler’s Wells just a week before ours:

Join the Society for Dance Research in a discussion on Alain Platel / les ballets C de la B’s nicht schlafen on Monday 3rd July with invited speakers Katalin Trencsényi and Dr Kélina Gotman, two days after the performances at Sadler’s Wells on 30th June and 1st July.

Dramaturg Katalin Trencsényi will present her research on Alain Platel’s collaborative dramaturgy and the development of nicht schlafen over the past year, while Dr Kélina Gotman will discuss the consequences of nation/post-nation or transnationalism, and how we might read cohabitation onstage. Both speakers will then propose some questions to open up the discussion.

Biographies:

Katalin Trencsényi is a London-based dramaturg, researcher and associate lecturer at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). As a freelance dramaturg, Katalin has worked with the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, Deafinitely Theatre, Corali Dance Company, and Company of Angels, among others. Katalin is co-founder of the Dramaturgs’ Network (d’n), worked on its various committees, and from 2010 to 2012 served as its President. Katalin is the author of Dramaturgy in the MakingA User’s Guide for Theatre Practitioners (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015), co-editor of New Dramaturgy: International Perspectives on Theory and Practice (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2014), and editor of Bandoneon: Working with Pina Bausch. (Oberon Books, 2016). For her research on dance dramaturgy, Katalin was recepient of the the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas’ Bly Creative Fellowship Grant. Katalin has a PhD from the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.

Kélina Gotman teaches Theatre and Performance Studies at King’s College London. She writes regularly on the history and philosophy of theatre and dance, cultural history, writing, translation, and the history and theory of disciplines and institutions. She has contributed among others to Performance ResearchAbout Performance (on the work of Alain Platel), Choreographic PracticesTextual PracticeSubStance, and various edited collections. She is author of Choreomania: Dance and Disorder (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, Studies in Dance Theory) and Essays on Theatre and Change: Towards a Poetics Of (forthcoming, Routledge). She has collaborated on over two dozen dance, theatre, and experimental opera productions in Europe and North America, as a translator, dramaturg, performer, director, writer, designer, movement director and curator. She is currently preparing among others an edited volume on performance, translation and everyday multilingualism, and a chapter on choreic gesture in Platel and the ballets C de la B’s Out of Context: For Pina for an edited volume on Platel’s work.

SDR’s Choreographic Forum is open to students, researchers, artists, and practitioners.

Attendance is free for Society for Dance Research (SDR) members / £6 full price / £3 concessions (students) + booking fees. Tickets available here.

For more information about the performances and to book tickets.

The 2017 series is curated by Iris Chan, Victoria Thoms, Florent Trioux & Lise Uytterhoeven.

Photo credit: © Chris Van der Burght

It’s in my diary…

Cross-posted with permission from the Department of English at King’s College London.

‘It’s in my diary’

is a phrase you still hear. The expression gives no clue as to whether the speaker uses a paper diary or an app, and not needing to make the distinction shows how old and new forms of diary co-exist happily. The paper appointment diary is still an everyday object – I have a Filofax I was given in the 1990s when they were fashionable and it’s still easy to buy an annual refill. Meanwhile an increasing number of apps make the diary mobile-friendly, multi-media, synchable – and, if you want to keep it private, encryptable.

Do you have a paper diary? Do you use a diary app? Do you contribute to an online diary platform? Do you do none of the above but are curious about diaries? Then put in your diary 26 May – 7 July, the dates for Dear Diary, a forthcoming exhibition at the Inigo Rooms, East Wing, Somerset House on diaries old and new. It’s a collaboration between the Centre for Life-Writing Research, which I co-direct, and the Great Diary Project, directed by Dr Polly North.

Diaries are among our most precious items of heritage… No other kind of document offers such a wealth of information about daily life and the ups and downs of human existence…

The GDP is a thriving archive housed in the beautiful and friendly Bishopsgate Institute near Liverpool Street station. Its founder, Irving Finkel, argues that ‘Diaries are among our most precious items of heritage. People in all walks of life have confided and often still confide their thoughts and experiences to the written page, and the result is a unique record of what happens to an individual over months, or even years, as seen through their eyes. No other kind of document offers such a wealth of information about daily life and the ups and downs of human existence’.  The GDP came to talk at the Centre for Life-Writing Research in 2014 and then suggested we partner for an exhibition.

I could write about the months spent planning Dear Diary as a production diary, something like playwright Simon Stephens: A Working Diary (Bloomsbury, 2016) a calendar-based account of his spectacular successes in 2014. The blurb sells it as ‘an exceptionally honest account…unprecedented access to [his] mind’, hyping up a common association between diaries and revelation. Or I could make a video diary like Planet Earth Diaries (2006), segments of narrative which explain behind-the-scenes efforts, or how footage of elusive camels involved a two-month trek across Mongolia… Ah yes, similar to putting on an exhibition. I could share Instagrammed developments every day, or I could share lists and goals from an ornately-decorated bullet journal. Or I could creep into a small space like Big Brother’sDiary Room and complain to camera.

Dear Diary King's College London Somerset House exhibition Inigo Rooms 2
‘The Ladies’ Diary’ – 18th century English publication devoted largely to problems and puzzles in mathematics, circulated among women.

Each of these diary genres spins off from a genealogy which stretches back to Babylonian almanacs, clay tablets from around 1400 BC recording the movement of the sun, moon and stars. So one of the puzzles of the exhibition has been how to put varieties of diary together, and how do we define these varieties in the first place? What connects them conceptually?

Diaries can make everyday lives seem extraordinary. At times I left the GDP thinking never again will I assume anything about a human being.

The puzzles got bigger over the exhibition planning process, but so did the team of helpers and thinkers. The Ego Media research group, based in the English Department, has expertise in blogs, vlogs and life-logging; funded by the European Research Council (pre-Brexit), its main research question is ‘What’s happened to life writing in the digital age?’. Diaries are a fine test case. I think there are at least three answers, and they help to structure the exhibition’s layout in what proved to be a difficult space with many practical challenges.

Diaries can make everyday lives seem extraordinary. At times I left the GDP thinking never again will I assume anything about a human being. People are full of surprises. It’s difficult to replicate that effect in an exhibition when there’s so much to be said and shown from diaries’ long and global history. But we’ll try.

Dear Diary King's College London Somerset House exhibition Inigo Rooms 3
Notebooks and journals of many kinds, all being sorted for display for ‘Dear Diary’

We will show film interviews with living diarists and footage of daily life made by refugees in camps in the Middle East. A forthcoming blog post here will talk more about the political and ethical questions raised in exhibiting these diaries alongside domestic journals.

Famous diarists include Virginia Woolf, Anne Frank and Anais Nin, also Frances Burney, Anne Lister, Dorothy Wordsworth, Beatrice Webb… we give them a namecheck, but this exhibition is not about famous or even literary diarists. It’s about the genre. Instead, we’ll show women reading their teenage diaries – brave! – and engage with mummy vloggers. We’ll explore the profiles of users of fitness apps, descendants of the Puritans who turned to diaries to review their faults and aspire to virtues. Critics have noted how women gravitate to journals as a place where self can be fluid and prose experimental, and the exhibition features many such examples.

There’ll also be a day of  talks about diaries by writers, artists and critics: Diaryfest, on the 30 May 2017 in the Council Room, Strand Campus. Register for free and see the full programme on the King’s website. Speakers will include Alexander Masters who took possession of 148 diary volumes found in a skip and turned them into a biography in A Life Discarded (2016), an ingenious book which foregrounds diary reading and refreshes the idea of reader as detective. For most of the book neither he nor we know who the subject is. Anonymous isn’t confined to diaries of course, but it has particular resonance given the diary’s association with secrecy and illicitness – an idea given a room in our exhibition, where Disney princesses, call girls, bankers and spies come together.

The blog, of course, is a diary descendant, now with a literary history of its own – hence a happy medium in which to alert you to Dear Diary. In 2013, Technorati’s Digital Influence survey declared that blogs were the fifth most trustworthy source overall for information on the Internet. And believe me, Dear Diary will be thought-provoking and fun. We look forward to seeing you there.

Clare Brant is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture and Co-Director, Centre for Life-Writing Research.

Life Goes On: How people in northern Rwanda make sense of psychosocial suffering from war and healing

CNR-TCRU Postgraduate Narrative Research Seminars, 2016 – 17

Organised by the Centre for Narrative Research (CNR), University of East London and the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU), UCL Institute of Education

Yuko Otake, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Northern Rwanda experienced wars between 1990 and 2000, including the civil war 1990-1994, the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, and the war of the abacengezi 1997-2000. The region was most catastrophically affected by the war of the Abacengezi during which mass killings took place on a daily basis. For political reasons, international aid interventions as well as government support to this area have been extremely limited, whereas grassroots communities have played a significant role in psychosocial healing of the people.

This ethnographic study explores the ways in which local communities in northern Rwanda heal psychosocial suffering in the context of limited humanitarian aid. Employing a narrative approach, it unpacks experience of psychosocial suffering, elaborates the ways in which communities heal themselves, and describes the meaning of ‘healing’ in the light of local views of morality, life and death. Qualitative analysis drew on participant observation, in-depth interviews, and focus-group discussions based on ten months of ethnographic fieldwork, which built on prior life and work experience in the field over two years.

Findings first describe local conceptualizations of psychosocial sufferings. These fell on a spectrum constructed by the degree of social disconnection reported by participants and how far their thoughts and memories were oriented towards a traumatic past. A key element of suffering was the literal ‘unspeakability’ of many wounds due to politically sensitive circumstances. This related to difficulties in making sense of what participants have experienced. Narratives of healing pathways described a common theme of leaving the past behind and going forward to the future through participation in different communities. In the context of the unspeakability of many traumas, communities provided alternative ways of healing from ‘speaking’ of the trauma directly. These include: allowing members to make sense of their sufferings through religious activities, everyday-life practices, and life-event ceremonies.

The study highlights that, in this setting, healing is not conceptualized as ‘recovery’ as assumed by Western theories, but rather, as a trajectory of ‘life goes on’: that is, that time continues into the future. In these communities’ accounts of healing, the focus is not on traumatic time but on time ‘being lived’ as part of life, and a series of lives beyond generations, through sharing everyday life and significant life events. In other words, healing can take place through social connection in a wider time-scale than trauma.

Yuko Otake is a PhD student at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and recently finished writing her thesis “Life Goes On: Psychosocial sufferings from war and healing pathways in northern Rwanda”. With academic background of psychology and public health, her work focuses on healing and resilience of war-affected communities. Before starting her PhD, she was working for Japan International Cooperation Agency in Rwanda and assisted community reconstruction from the war and genocide, which provided a foundation for her PhD study. She is also an awardee of the World Bank scholarship and the emerging scholar award by the Japanese Association of Qualitative Psychology.

Tuesday 4th April 2017, 5 – 6.30pm
Library, Thomas Coram Research Unit 
27 – 28 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA
All welcome, particularly graduate students.

For further details please contact Corinne Squire at c.squire@uel.ac.uk or
Xin Guo, Thomas Coram Research Unit graduate partner, xin.guox02@gmail.com
Details are also on the CNR website

Maps without borders: Stories of civic science in action

This storytelling exhibition at University College London showcases powerful aerial maps created by citizens using kites, balloons, and point-and-shoot cameras. They explore how people around the world are harnessing the power of Do-It-Yourself techniques to address local environmental, social and political matters.

Sitting around a proverbial campfire, they will tell four stories of unsung heroes in the U.S. and the Middle East, who have crafted tools and gathered evidence that has reconfigured the perception of space, place, and issues that shape their lives.

For more information…

Call For Papers: 15 May deadline for OCLW/ TORCH Conference, ‘After-Image: Life-Writing and Celebrity’

OCLW and TORCH are funding two conferences related to life-writing this year, please see below for details on the conference, ‘After-Image: Life-Writing and Celebrity’:

Call for Papers, 15 May abstract submission deadline

After-Image: Life-Writing and Celebrity
Saturday, 19 September 2015
The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) at Wolfson College, Oxford

With funding from the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, and the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London (CLWR)

 Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Sarah Churchwell Andrew O’Hagan
Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities, University of East Anglia

2015 Writer in Residence, The Eccles Centre at the British Library

Novelist

Creative Writing Fellow,

King’s College London 

In the last decade, the fields of life-writing and celebrity studies have separately gained traction as areas for provocative critical analysis, but the significant connections between them have been overlooked. In celebrity studies, stories about individual people are examined through national, cultural, economic and political contexts. The function of the person’s image is considered rather than the life from which that image was/is derived. Conversely, life-writing does not always take into account the impact of celebrity on the life, and instead portrays it as an event rather than a condition with psychological impact which could be an integral part of the narrative.

 Through a one-day conference entitled ‘After-Image: Life-Writing and Celebrity,’ we want to consider the interplay between celebrity and life-writing. The conference will explore ideas of image, persona and self-fashioning in an historical as well as a contemporary context and the role these concepts play in the writing of lives. How does the story (telling) of a historical life—of Cleopatra or Abraham Lincoln, for instance— alter when we re-read it in terms of celebrity? What is the human impact of being a celebrity— in the words of Richard Dyer, ‘part of the coinage of every day speech’? And how does this factor in when we use archival materials related to celebrities, such as diaries, letters, memoirs, interviews, press accounts, oral histories, apocryphal tales, etc.? Furthermore, what are the ethical responsibilities of life-writers when approaching such famous stories?

Possible topics for papers include but are not limited to:

  • Celebrity in the fields of literature, politics, entertainment and public life
  • Historical reevaluations of celebrity from earlier periods
  • Royal lives
  • The politics of writing celebrity lives
  • The psychology of celebrity
  • Fame, famousness, fandom, stardom, myth and/or iconicity
  • The celebrity as life-writer (i.e. celebrity memoirs, etc.)
  • Using celebrity lives in historical fiction
  • The celebrity and identity
  • Showmanship, freak shows and the circus
  • Identity, power and violence in lives of the famous
  • Images and the press
  • Writing celebrity lives from below

We also welcome papers on any issues arising from these questions and disciplines.

The conference organizers invite abstracts for individual 20-minute presentations/papers or panel proposals. Presenters should submit abstracts of 300 words by 15 May 2015 to Nanette O’Brien (nanette.obrien@wolfson.ox.ac.uk) and Oline Eaton (faith.eaton@kcl.ac.uk). Please send your abstract as a separate attachment in a PDF or Word document, and include on it your name, affiliation, and a brief bio.

Call for Papers: Silence in the Archives

This conference is taking place on 7th November 2015 at Wolfson College, funded by the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing and The Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities.

Scholars increasingly look to women’s own life writing in the nineteenth century as a way of reconstructing both their lived experiences and their inner lives. While diaries, journals, letters, and memoirs offer a window into the past, paradoxically it is often the absences in the archives, which provide the most insight into women’s lives in the period. Torn out pages and scratched out sentences are simultaneously frustrating and intriguing for scholars, offering hints and clues to the unspeakable and the unacceptable.

Women’s life writing from the nineteenth century is thus intrinsically tied up with censorship: both by the self and others. Some beliefs, thoughts and ideas may have been too inflammatory to commit to paper in the first place – representative of inadmissible ambitions or transgressive desires. Some women later destroyed their papers, belatedly conforming to constraints of gender, class and propriety. Others were edited by family members, erasing evidence contrary to a public persona or prevalent norms.

This conference will bring together researchers from across a range of disciplines in the humanities to explore the extent and the significance of omissions in women’s life writing and question what silences in the archives can tell us about what it meant to be a woman in the nineteenth century.

The conveners welcome 20-minute papers on topics including, but not limited to:

  • Motives, practices and implications of censored life writing
  • Self-censorship or destruction by women of their own papers
  • Gender and sexuality encoded in private writing
  • Adaptations of private correspondence, collaborative documents, and political writing
  • Acts of posthumous suppression or revision by families or literary executors
  • Resurfacing or rediscovery of previously lost or unknown life writing
  • Interpretation of archival silence in the age of the digital archive
  • Research strategies for approaching, reading and interpreting gaps in life writing

300-word proposals, along with a short biography, should be sent to Lyndsey Jenkins and Alexis Wolf at silenceinthearchives2015@gmail.com by 5th June 2015.