CFP—IABA Europe Conference 2019, Knowing the Self: Auto/Biographical Narratives and the History of Knowledge

June 19–21, 2019

IABA Europe was founded in October 2009, with the aim of encouraging European scholars to participate in the International Auto/Biography Association (IABA) by organizing biennial conferences, publishing an e-journal, and facilitating contacts via various means of communication. Following five successful conferences in Amsterdam (2009), Tallinn (2011), Vienna (2013), Funchal, Madeira (2015), and London (2017), the 2019 conference will be hosted by Complutense University, Madrid.

The sixth IABA Europe conference proposes to examine the interrelation between life writing and the history of knowledge. Insofar as all life writing is concerned with human self-understanding, it is necessarily entangled with diverse fields that produce knowledge about humans, whether the narration aims at rendering a seemingly given knowledge of the self or at acquiring it, at questioning it or at staging it. Any “knowledge of the self” is inscribed in a broader history—or histories—of knowledge. Yet, to which bodies of knowledge and which theoretical languages do auto/biographical narratives refer in order to gain or communicate a specific “knowledge” of the self? Which historically and culturally diverse fields of knowledge have contributed or are contributing to shaping ideas of “the self,” and how do these fields affect the modes of production, the forms and the rhetoric of life narratives? And vice versa: Which role do auto/biographical narratives play for knowledge production and the evolution of disciplines?

While certain fields of the humanities have been widely recognized for their importance for auto/biographical self-fashioning and self-exploration, such as historical and psychoanalytic hermeneutics, the conference encourages an interdisciplinary exploration of the relationship between auto/biographical writing and a wide range of fields of knowledge and of disciplines. At the same time, not least in view of the rapidly growing number of “expert autobiographies,” it aims at stimulating research on the role of life writing in the development and shaping of disciplines.

On a further level, the conference aims at sparking methodological reflections on how to go about examining interrelations between life writing and the sciences or the humanities. Are connections to be described as a matter of influence, or can we identify epistemic currents that equally encompass autobiographical writing and the generation of knowledge, scientific, theoretical, or other? With which notion of knowledge do we and with which notion do the media studied operate? Especially with regard to autobiographies, this involves also the question: to what extent we are to distinguish between “subjective” autobiographical and “objective” theoretical writing—if at all. And how is the relation between autobiographical and theoretical writing negotiated by the narratives themselves? Do they confirm, subvert, blur or contest established distinctions between scientific facts, evidence-based knowledge and theoretical writing on the one hand, and individual self-observation and personal writing on the other? What is their “poetics of knowledge”?

We welcome proposals for individual papers, full panels, workshops and round tables, which address such themes as:

  • the multiple interrelations between historically and culturally diverse fields and forms of knowledge and life writing, the ways in which auto/biographical texts adopt, strengthen, question, negotiate, challenge, contest, or anticipate intellectual tendencies, theoretical positions, and epistemic orders of their time;
  • life narratives as counter-stories: contesting legitimate knowledge;
  • history of academic/expert autobiographies and the interferences, repercussions, and demarcations between professional/theoretical and autobiographical writing;
  • history of auto/biographies of academics, thinkers, and experts, biographical approaches to the histories of science and scholarship;
  • the internet and the private/public self: digital narratives of testimony, blogs, intermediality;
  • auto/biographical writing as source of historical, social, and cultural knowledge, and as generative tool in theproduction of such knowledge; forms of self-inscription in academic/professional writing;
  • New disciplines: corpus building, enhancing empirical language and ageing research from a multidisciplinary perspective; compilations of authentic samples of language/multimodal data covering life narratives, ageing and language issues;
  • the role of first-person writing in the development of disciplines, e.g. “field diaries,” auto-ethnographic and “ego-historical” accounts, scientific travelogues;
  • trauma/illness studies and life writing: Scriptotherapy, Medical Humanities and auto/biography: caregiving and caretaking, suffering and resilience, illness experience to explore the self, life stories for physicians to understand the patients’ clinical history;
  • epistemic contexts of specific auto/biographical forms, styles, and rhetoric; connections between life writing techniques and technologies of specific disciplines, between auto/biographical and scholarly discourse;
  • theoretical, methodological and practical interrelations between specific disciplines and life narratives;
  • life writing and affect: emotions, theory, practice;
  • knowledge and authority constructions in life writing; “knowledge communities,” questions of power and speaking positions in life writing;
  • experimental forms of life writing: innovative poetics of the self.

    Conference languages: English and Spanish

    Suggested formats:
    – Individual papers (abstract max. 300 words)
    – Full panel (90-minutes slot, 3 participants including chair, abstract max. 900 words) – Round Table (90 minutes slot, 3/4 participants, abstract max. 900 words)
    – Workshops (90 minutes slot, 3/4 participants, abstract max. 900 words)

    Deadline for proposals: 28 January 2019

    Notification of acceptance: 22 February 2019

    Conference Fees:

    * Deadline for Late Bird registration is June, 10th.

    Conference website:

    (Be sure to check ‘English’ in the ‘IDIOMA’ tab on the upper-right corner of the site) Abstract submission:

    (Be sure to check ‘English’ in the ‘IDIOMA’ tab on the upper-right corner of the site) Registration:

    (Be sure to check ‘English’ in the ‘IDIOMA’ tab on the upper-right corner of the site)

    This CFP has been reposted from the IABA Listserv.


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