IABA Europe 2017: Collaboration Roundtable Abstracts and Speaker Bios


Ana Belén Martínez García, “Collaborative Life Writing”
Collaborative life writing, even if it may have its ethical pitfalls, is a recurrent feature for activists from non-English speaking backgrounds who want to make their claims heard. In this presentation I focus on young women from the Global South who have come to the fore as human rights activists thanks to the publication of collaborative memoirs alongside multiplatform approaches to life narrative which also present collaboration at their core. For instance, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala and the Malala Fund collaborative initiatives, as well as North Korean defectors Yeonmi Park’s In Order to Live and Hyeonseo Lee’s The Girl with Seven Names, who take up an “I” that is both individual and collective in their memoirs and in their public appearances on and offline. Reading these texts side by side reveals how human rights causes like theirs have much to gain from such collaborative projects.

Elsa Lechner, “Collaborative Research with Migrants and Refugees: From Asymmetrical Reciprocities to Concrete Utopia”
Drawing from biographical research with migrants and refugees in formal and informal settings, this lightning talk explores pathways from asymmetrical reciprocities between locals and refugees to a concrete utopia of dialogue and mutual recognition. Following the hypothesis that “by exchanging stories we might change history,” I will point out the constructive potentialities of collaboration in biographical research by taking its limits as new horizons of possibility. In technical and ethical terms, such moderate optimistic approach  pushes forward the (sometimes radical) encounter between different subject positions as opportunities for new knowledge production and new social relations in a world where physical, symbolic and political walls seem to grow. The very work of research contributes to a culture of peace by building bridges between different participants, by facilitating intercultural dialogues, and highlighting the biopolitics of biographical accounts produced by migrants and refugees in the research context.

Olga Michael, “Crossing the Void: Life after the PhD”
This presentation will introduce the SNS Network blog series “Crossing the Void: Life after the PhD.” Functioning as a follow-up to last year’s SNS roundtable for early-career researchers and PhD students on life after the PhD, my brief talk will present an idea that is gradually taking form after its warm reception by the SNS Network. Given the difficulties of the post-PhD period and the search for job security, we feel that it would be helpful to share early-career researchers’ leap from their studies to the job market. Our goal is to share experiences, professional choices inside and outside academia, the pros and cons of these choices and to inform postgraduate students about what to expect after the PhD. This will be an open invitation to early-career scholars to contribute with their own life narratives of “crossing the void” so as to allow the formation of collaborations, the strengthening of links and the exchange of advice between new and established scholars as well as students in the field of life writing.


Ana Belén Martínez García is a PhD Assistant Professor at the University of Navarra (Spain). Her research has focused on issues of identity, from the point of view of socio-cultural, gender, and performativity studies. She is now writing on human rights life narratives, and is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London, where she studies the relationship between online and offline platforms that activists use as self-presentation and self-construction modes. She is especially interested in young women from the Global South and how they use multimodal approaches to present an activist self.

Elsa Lechner is a senior researcher at the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra. PhD in social anthropology (EHESS, 2003), she was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Brown and Rutgers-Newark Universities (2014/15). She dedicates her work to biographical research for the study of migrations, collaborates as a member of the editorial committee of the international journal for biographical research Le Sujet dans la Cité, member of the Brazilian Association Biograph, invited researcher at EXPERICE, Research Group on Migrations (USP), and Grafho (Bahia).

Olga Michael is a Lecturer in English Language and Literature at the University of Central Lancashire. Her research interests include women’s autobiographical performances, contemporary women’s writing and media representations of women. She has published work on women’s graphic memoirs, female beauty and sexual objectification and the Wonder Woman.