His02
Storytelling and social order in Africa

Convenors:
Dan Hodgkinson (University of Oxford)
Jocelyn Alexander (University of Oxford)
Stream:
History
Location:
David Hume, LG.10
Friday 14 June, 8:45-10:15
Friday 14 June, 10:45-12:15

Short abstract:

This panel will consider how the study of storytelling can expand our understanding of how people navigate and contest social orders in Africa, in both historical and contemporary contexts.

Long abstract:

This panel will consider how the study of storytelling can expand our understanding of how people navigate and contest social orders in Africa. In recent years, the study of political narratives in electoral campaigns, commemorative events, print media and satirical cartoons has enriched our understanding of how politicians and other powerful actors seek to maintain and contest state power. Yet the stories people tell offer much more than just a lens on elite politics. As Hannah Arendt and Michael Jackson have argued, storytelling is a universal practice that can invoke moral frameworks and constitute agency for those who face oppression and persecution. Storytelling - as either a speech act or in writing - has powerful political effects both in the intersubjective realms where community is made, and in public fora where truth claims and demands for recognition are asserted. These contexts interact in potentially creative and disruptive ways. Papers may consider storytellers across a broad spectrum - soldiers, economic migrants, student activists, artists, and others. We are particularly interested in papers that analyse the sites and circumstances in which storytelling takes place and gains efficacy; the discourses and conventions that storytellers draw upon and which delineate claims and communities; and the politics of reception and retelling over time.