Life Writing and Human Rights: Genres of Testimony

Venue: Kingston University, London

Location: London, United Kingdom

Event Date/Time: Jul 11, 2011 End Date/Time: Jul 13, 2011
Abstract Submission Date: Feb 15, 2011
Report as Spam


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.


Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 2EE
United Kingdom

Additional Information

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 perspectives  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