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IABA Europe Conference 2015 - Dialogical Dimensions in Narrating Lives and Life Writing
27-29 May 2015, Centre for Atlantic Studies, Funchal, Madeira (Portugal)

Following three successful conferences in Amsterdam (2009), Tallinn (2011) and Vienna (2013), the 2015 IABA Europe conference will be hosted by the Centre for Atlantic Studies (Your text to link...), Madeira Island, and co-hosted by the European Journal of Life Writing (Your text to link....

The Centre for Atlantic Studies (CEHA) is located in Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira. CEHA is a government Institution (Autonomous Government of Madeira) founded in 1985. The research carried out by CEHA focuses on Atlantic history and on particular in the relationship between Madeira, Azores, Canary and Cape Verde Islands. More recently it has centred on life narratives through the Memoria project, which has been developed since 2013. The purpose of this project is to promote the importance of the individual in the course of history. Through the gathering of personal documents (letters, postcards, journals, photos, notes etc.) and interviews we are creating an archive and digital database that is available to investigators and the general public.
The fourth IABA Europe conference would like to advance contemporary discussion on narrating lives (telling life stories) by exploring dialogical dimensions in the creation and interpretation of life narrative and life writing, and the tensions to which these may give rise. We welcome proposals for papers which address the following themes, as well as other papers, films or any other creative medium considering life writing themes:
• The effects of power relations in society on which lives are written, by whom, and in what form.
• The interplay between auto/biographical fact and fictive or rhetorical construction.
• The role of archives in preserving, publishing and ‘canonising’ life stories.
• The relationship between the writer/producer of ego documents and the researcher/reader, looking at the various ways in which a life is (or could be) re-created.
• Internal dialogical structures in autobiographies, various other kinds of ego documents and life narratives, e.g. the range of different narrating voices and subject positions in auto/biographies.
• Dialogue and (inter)mediality: dialogical dimensions involved in or provided by the specific medium/media used to document, narrate or explore a life, e.g. the impact of the possibilities of reader response in digital life writing and ‘social media’.
• The impact of narrating other people's lives on our own lives.
• Dialogue and the question of the ethics of life writing.
• The impact of narrating lives on trade and communication in Atlantic history.
Conference languages: English and French
Deadline for abstracts: 2 February 2015.
Notification of acceptance: 2 March 2015
Please send your abstract (max 300 words) and a short CV to: Claudia Faria,

Heroic Narratives and the Reshaping of History
11-12 June 2015, University of Copenhagen (Denmark)

One of the most influential factors for preserving and propagating a collective identity are narrative traditions, especially the stories people relate when that identity is vulnerable. Through storytelling, people can construct fashion and interpret their world. They can confront their past and their contemporary situations and envision their future and the ways by which means this future will come about.
Inspired by Eric Selbin’s model of the ‘Literature of Resistance’, the conference aims to discuss the possible narrative strategies by which Myth, Memory, and Mimesis are used as tools for shaping a collective identity. Here, myth signifies the body of stories through which a certain group of people relate their history, while collective memory refers to a movement within a cultural discourse that continuously combines and fuses the present and the past, fulfilling a social function in the cultural web in which it is integrated. Mimesis refers to a certain group’s inspiration by another – ancestors, contemporaries, or people in distant places and times – in making fundamental and transformational changes in their society.
Together, myth, memory, and mimesis are powerful aspects of historical narrativity, especially when those seeking change integrate cultural symbols, heroes, and myths into the semantics of a heroic narrative in an attempt to exercise cultural dominance and legitimacy.
It is our goal to bring together specialists from a wide range of disciplines who are working on literature and collective identity in the ancient and medieval world. The conference will offer an international platform for researchers, including doctoral students, to present their research to an international and diverse audience. We believe that such collaboration will stimulate discussion on strategies for historical narrative, and enable us to share ideas, and place the conference themes in the widest possible context.

Information: Seraina Nett,

She Reads to Write Herself: the figure of the reader in women's autobiographical texts
18-19 September 2015, Paris Ouest (France)

The 2015 FAAAM (Femmes Auteures Anglaises et Américaines) conference will focus on the figure of the female reader in women's autobiographical texts. Literary and intellectual autobiographies often stage the reader as author-to-be, thus legitimizing a vocation. The origin and persistence of the desire to write is frequently based on the child’s privileged link with reading, which is later reinforced by his/her studies. Reading and writing are the two inseparable aspects of the writer’s identity, at least in the autobiographical tradition to which Sartre’s Les Mots belongs (Les Mots is divided into two parts: reading and writing). Thus, autobiography sheds a new light on the dogma according to which «Literature is made with literature», as some writers confirm or invalidate this link. As a highly reflexive genre, autobiography is ideal material for the study of the link between production and reception, since writers read their lives as much as they write them. From a theoretical point of view, some critics consider autobiography as a mode of reading as much as a mode of writing, as it is based upon a pact with the reader.
Historically, the access of women to reading and books is not self-evident, and until quite recently, the idea that women were illiterate still prevailed. In some parts of the world, girls have access neither to books nor to education for either economic and ideological reasons, or both. In this context, reading can be seen as an act of resistance or transgression, and the access to books a struggle for power. But books themselves also represent tools of empowerment for women, though they can resort to other cultural traditions to tell their lives, such as orality, myths, fiction or «hybrid genres». Thus for Spivak, autobiography is not an ideal means for post-colonial female writers to express themselves because of its links with universal masculine individualism. The conference will focus on how autobiographical texts by women deal with intertextuality and represent the act of reading.
The conference proposes to tackle the following issues:
The future writer’s library ; encounters, forbidden or canonical texts.
Reading within reading : places, rituals, silent or public readings.
The key role of writing in the writer’s lives : books as saviours (Frame), books as killers, books as nourishment (cooking memoirs).
The relationship between writing and being, the role played by literary fathers and mothers.
Reading as a political/transgressive gesture. Cf : Reading Lolita in Tehran : A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi (2003).
Creativity in autobiography as staging its own reception.
Reading and male domination.
Intertextuality : how autobiographers appropriateimaginary worlds of others to reinscribe them in their own writings.
Transmission/heritage : what is the nature of the relationship between the autobiographer and literary traditions ?Re-vision ? Reappropriation ? Subversion ?

Organisation & scientific committee: Claire Bazin et Corinne Bigot (FAAAM at CREA, Paris Ouest), Nicoleta Alexoae-Zagni (Istom), Valérie Baisnée ( Paris Sud), Valérie Baudier (Paris Ouest), Alice Braun (Paris Ouest), Nathalie Saudo (Amiens)
Contact: Nicoleta Alexoae-Zagni,

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

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 in Oxford, UK 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 ( and Oline Eaton ( 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.

Life Writing and/as Empathy: A Symposium on Narrative Emotions
15-17 October 2015, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra (Spain)

This symposium focuses on the articulation or creation of empathy in life writing, in the context of theories of emotions and emotional cultures. We envision the symposium as an interdisciplinary conversation based on a variety of life writing texts, including memoir, diaries, letters, film and documentaries, and online media. Topics may include, but are not limited to: the creation of empathy within specific life writing genres, reader reception and empathy, the aesthetics of empathy, teaching empathy through life writing, visualizing empathetic processes, memoir and theory of mind, empathy and social identities (ethnicity, disability, gender and class), memory and empathy, the ethics of empathy, the rhetorics of empathy, representations of emotions attendant to empathy, and actional and aesthetic empathy, among others.
Plenary speakers: Professor Suzanne Keen, Washington and Lee University; Professor Irene Kacandes, Dartmouth College; Professor Arthur Frank, University of Alberta.
Information: Prof. Rocio G. Davis at

Silence in the Archives: Censorship and Suppression in Women's Life Writing in the Long Nineteenth Century
7 November 2015, Wolfson College, University of Oxford (UK)

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 that 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 by 5th June 2015.

The Failed Individual
November 12-14, 2015, University of Mannheim (Germany)

“If there is one thing in this world that I hate, it’s losers. I despise them,” then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared to a group of high school students, expressing a firm belief in success and failure as the results of individual action and ambition. Himself embodying the American Dream as an immigrant who ‘made it big in America,’ Schwarzenegger demeaned the worth of individuals he perceived to be ‘losers,’ and thus echoed an attitude prevalent in contemporary Western neoliberal politics that glorifies ‘success,’ i.e. striving for the good life, as the only valuable way of being in the world and as the ultimate goal of one’s existence. Those who fail, the cultural myth goes, lack the determination and the will to work harder, run faster, and jump higher than those who succeed. This crude simplification of success and failure veils the fact that ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ do not merely depend on individual action or choice, but are actually enabled by an intricate web of power dynamics and regulatory regimes. As J. Jack Halberstam reminds us, for most people “recognizing that … success is the outcome of the tilted scales of race, class, and gender” (Queer Art of Failure 3) is much harder to do than giving into the “mass delusion” that success is a matter of attitude and that there really is no good excuse for an individual to fail (Ehrenreich, Brightsighted 13). Scrutinizing the many ways in which individuals fail economically, politically, socially, physically, or culturally provides revealing insights into the power of hegemonic discourses and the pressure to meet normative ideals, the various human and non-human actors involved in what we usually consider ‘human failure’, but also into the productive potential and the pleasures failure has to offer.
At this conference, we will explore the failed individual in as many facets as possible. Instead of approaching failure as something solely humiliating and undesirable, we want to focus also on the rewards failing can offer and on its transformative potential by investigating the spaces of resistance, anarchy, and chaos failure occupies and opens up. The inability of queers to conform to normative patterns of desire and reproduction, or the failure of crips to meet the standards of physical productivity, fundamentally challenges teleological, future-oriented conceptions of ‘success’. Similarly, the negative effects associated with failure—disappointment, pain, disillusionment, anxiety, despair—may form a productive counter-discourse to the ideology of positivity rampant in neoliberal societies. However, we also want to pay due attention to the systems, structures, and media dispositifs that foster and frame an individual’s success and that set up an individual’s failure in the first place. If, in capitalist societies, someone’s success depends on someone else’s failure, it seems all too necessary to ask how the failed individual is framed, disqualified, and punished for the sake of maintaining order and cultural legibility. Moreover, in the face of an increasing technologization of life and a neoliberal global economy resulting in variants of labor exploitation and precariousness in both the West and the Global South, we want to investigate, in the vein of posthumanism, under which circumstances human agency can be regarded as a force that can be explained in terms of an autonomous and rational concept of subjectivity. Do we have to rethink notions of responsibility and accountability if the human subject is only one node in a complex network of economic, political, cultural, and historical influences? How does a new media environment dependent on corporate algorithms and promoting digital self-tracking affect the way we think about personal growth and failure? In what ways is the life of the failed individual particularly endangered, precarious, and vulnerable? What is the significance of master narratives and cultural myths like the American Dream in the dialectic of success and failure? In what ways does U.S. political culture’s focus on individualism veil the structures at work that act as stepping stones for some and as ‘glass ceilings’ for others? Which role does the disciplining of the body and the regulation of sexuality, gender, and desire play in the production of the failed individual?
We invite scholars to submit a short abstract (300-500 words) and a short CV to by 1 March, 2015. The workshop is not limited to a specific discipline or field of study, but it will be particularly useful for scholars with a background in American Studies, Media Studies, and Cultural Studies. Travel subsidies will be available to PhD students unable to procure funding from their own institution.
Contributions could, among other things, engage the following issues:
· The nexus of capitalism, neoliberalism, productivity and failure
· Failure in relation to the body
· Posthumanist perspectives on failed subjectivity, agency, and knowledge
· The effects of new media on self-knowledge, autonomy, and ‘self-optimization’
· Intersectionalities and strategies of ‘othering’ (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, etc.)
· Biopolitics and biopower
· Failed figures (drug addicts, prostitutes, the unemployed, the homeless, etc.) in literature, culture, media discourses and history
· Failure as a result of the choice not to participate in exploitative structures
· Ethics, violence, and the precariousness of life
· Cultural myths and narratives of positivity
· Failure as punishment for sinning in punitive theologies

Making Individual Memory Visible in the Public Space. Third ISA Forum
10-14 July 2016, Vienna (Austria)

Both traditional historical and classical memory narratives were greatly determined by the recollection of the figure of the hero. National identities were built around the heroic deeds of the great man who then served as historical, social and cultural models for the particular society. Within this process of inscribing the exemplarity of heroes into collective memory the public space (through its statues, street names, memorial plaques and other memorial signs) typically played an essential role. What happens, however, when the everyday man takes over the urban space?
Both social history and qualitative sociology (especially biographical research) “discovered” the everyday men behind macro historical events: these trends cannot imagine the understanding of society without the understanding of the experiences of the individual.
The proposed session intends to elaborate the relationship of individual memories and the urban space in the format of a regular session, focusing on the following questions: How does the biography of everyday man become articulated in the urban space and how does others’ biographical presentation affect its own? How do urban experiences and public representations become part of the narration of the individual’s life story? How do memories of the everyday man increasingly flood the public space (see examples commemorating everyday man such as the Stolpersteine project) and how does the individual challenge particular memorials (see vandalization of statues)? How do collective and individual processes of remembering mutually shape each other in and through the urban space?

Abstract Submission: 14 April 2015 - 30 September 2015 24:00 GMT
Anyone interested in presenting a paper should submit an abstract on-line to the session on the following link: