CfP: Network Conference “Culture and its Uses as Testimony”, 11-12 April 2018

The AHRC-funded research network on Culture and its Uses as Testimony will be holding its international conference at Birmingham University UK from 11-12 April 2018. The conference will explore the core questions set out below, and papers are now invited from academics and practitioners with relevant expertise and experience.

Theoretical Frameworks

  • What are the main approaches to culture as testimony, and how do they interact?
  • How can the insights of researchers be of use to practitioners (documentary film-makers, directors of theatrical events, novelists, teachers), and how can the experience of practitioners inform research?

Dilemmas of Culture as Testimony

  • What is the balance between the emotion and empathy created by testimony on the one hand and analysis and critical understanding on the other?
  • Testimony in cultural form can be liberating and empowering; it embraces contradiction, doubt, and playfulness to transmit experience, and it is often structurally complex, fragmentary, and ‘messy’. It can also be shocking and enchanting. How can such testimony take its place alongside other forms of testimony?

Forms and Forums

  • How do the forms and forums for testimony influence their content? What, for example, are the typical characteristics of truth and reconciliation commissions, and what do they offer that the courts do not? How do individuals’ diaries disrupt historical masternarratives?

Power, Authority, Status and Hierarchies

  • Is testimony in cultural form an agent of change or an alternative to change?
  • How is testimony institutionalised, and what are the dangers of a ‘testimony Industry’?
  • Moral issues: What do we do with perpetrator testimony?
  • What claims can be made about the truth of testimony, and is the frequently applied term ‘authenticity’ meaningful or misleading?

The mediated experience

  • How is cultural testimony appropriated and misappropriated?
  • Against the background of the loss of witness generations what is the value and purpose of secondary witnessing and post-memory?
  • What opportunities and challenges are presented by new technology that can capture and disseminate testimony?

Support for speakers: Reasonable travel and accommodation costs for speakers will be covered. The conference organisers welcome the participation of early career researchers.

Please submit your proposal, including title and abstract (150 words max.), and a brief biographical note by 13 December, 2017 to:

For further information, please contact the organisers, Dr Sara Jones ( and Professor Roger Woods (

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