CES Summer Course
Lives and history: a comprehensive course on biographies and society
Palácio da Lousã, 18-22 July 2011
The CES Research Group on Humanities, Migrations and Peace Studies is pleased to announce its inaugural Summer Course on Biographies and Society. The purpose of this course is to offer a comprehensive study of human experiences of the social world drawing from a combined theoretical axis of analysis. First, an anthropological understanding of lives and history as a dialectics of social (im)possibilities for subjects and politically organized institutions; second, an experiential approach - within the research work - to what it means to be a social researcher in our world today.
Unlike the scientific model of statistical representativeness, the historic and hermeneutic analysis of “biographical objects”, such as life histories, autobiographies, diaries, correspondence, memoirs, biographical narratives, personal testimonies, does not aim at describing general patterns and achieving “saturation”, but rather at uncovering and recognizing the concrete lived experiences of social subjects in context. These subjects are deeply rooted in broader historical, sociological, political fabric that transcends their personal lives. At the same time, personal testimonies are shaped by the specific relationships brought about by concrete fieldwork contexts in different disciplines and settings.
This theoretical positioning of biographical research assumes its political dimension and civic role as “solidary knowledge production”. Knowledge is power, which is differentially distributed among different (often asymmetric) social groups and contexts. It intervenes directly in the interactions between researchers and subjects in the field, as well as in the relationship between academics “and the world out there”.
Following this civic and political perspective on the study of lives and history, our comprehensive course aims at exploring two major epistemological and methodological issues: on one hand, biographical objects are subjects of interaction (of dialogue, confrontation, conflict, negotiation, in silence, words or acts). They build social relationships in the field just like personal lives build social relations in society; on the other hand, interactions in the field of biographical research are permeated by power relations that need to be analyzed in the horizon of its specific frameworks and settings. Only through this awareness can we forge methodological tools going beyond the colonialist appropriation of the Other and standing apart from the automatized production of data understood as useful knowledge.
With these ideas in mind (and at heart), the CES summer course will welcome three internationally recognized scholars with a significant contribution to the study of lives and history in a comprehensive way.
Carlos Martín Beristain is a Spanish physician specialized in humanitarian work. Drawing on over a decade of field experiences in different continents as well as a burgeoning literature about the psychological and social effects of war and disasters, Beristain develops research and actions at the interface of theory and practice as one response to these complex social and political realities. His contribution to our course will offer an excellent introduction to those seeking to respond to the complex social, political, cultural, and linguistic diversity within any humanitarian crisis.
Daniel Feldhendler is a French professor working in Germany for more than 30 years (Goethe University-Frankfurt). His work on Playback Theater (theater-récit and theater for social change), aims at spontaneously representing the lived experiences of audiences through an original interactive setting. This improvisation method represents a great dialogical instrument for exploring life experiences, personal memories and collective history in the present. Feldhendler’ contribution to our course will enable the participants to learn and experience the potentialities of such tool for social interactions and dialogues.
Luisa Passerini is an oral historian, writer, and professor of history. She began her career as a researcher in Tanzania and Zambia. Returning to Italy, she became involved in the movements of the late 1960s and 1970s, particularly the feminist movement, about which she has written a memoir, Autobiography of a Generation. She has taught in Australia, Germany and the United States, as well as in Italy, where she is a professor of History at the University of Turin. Luisa Passerini is the author and editor of several books, among which Memoria e utopia. Il primato dell’intersoggettività (2003), L’Europa e l’amore. Immaginario e politica tra le due guerre (1999) e Storia e soggettività. Le fonti orali, la memoria (1988). Several of his publications have appeared in English; his A memória entre política e emoção has just been published in Brazil. She has done pioneering oral history work on several issues. Her contribution to the course will offer a methodological reflection on the question of oral history and autobiographical memory.
The course is scheduled for 5 days (18-22 July) with contributions by the local team and sessions hosted by the three invited professors. It is designed for a mixed public of post-graduate students, researchers, professionals and members of the civil society with an interest in our theoretical and methodological propositions.
The sessions will be held in English and Spanish (Carlos Beristain).
Transportation will be provided by CES from Coimbra to Lousã (25km south of Coimbra)
Applications should be sent to email@example.com with a short curriculum vitae and a motivation letter.
Deadline for submissions: May 30th.
Acceptance notification: June 15th.