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Accepted paper:

Performing Collective Imagination through Confessional Storytelling

Author:

Justine Conte (York University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the act of sharing personal histories through a lens of felt experience. It considers how memories of the past can shape futures, and how making this a collective practice facilitates an empathetic consideration of others and the possibility of imagining collective futures.

Paper long abstract:

The aim of this paper is to explore how confessional storytelling can be employed as a means of affective communication that addresses felt social divisions and fosters an engagement with a collective imagination. Confessional storytelling is a mode of communicating 'true', lived, personal experiences to a live audience and has recently surged in popularity thanks to radio programs such as The Moth and The Story Corps. Based on ethnographic research done with live storytelling communities in Toronto, Canada, I will explore the ways in which both telling and receiving personal stories constitutes a radical act of making oneself 'open to' collective imagining. I will also interrogate how the idea of liveness facilitates the transference of affective memory (Stanislavsky 1989, Cvetkovich 2003, Schneider 2011) in ways that can create spaces for communal 're-membering' (Stewart 1996:7) of personal pasts.

This study draws on performance ethnography scholarship that interrogates the role of theater in fostering social change (Kazubowski-Houston 2011). It examines the mechanics of a space where community members can co-perform each other's memories as a collective form of worldmaking. It is a tentative and open-ended look at a specific set of circumstances that allow not only for communication, but also for the possibility to better understand how and why we might, together, imagine a future that is built upon the stories from our pasts. In particular, it considers how performance's liveness and potential subversion of temporalities might contribute to such collective imaginings.

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Collaborative Futures in Practice: Methods and pedagogies for imagining and doing anthropology together [PechaKucha]