Université Paris Diderot, 23 to 27 June 2014
The 7th Narrative Matters Conference, Narrative Knowing/Récit et Savoir, took place at the Université Paris Diderot in partnership with the American University in Paris from June 23 to 27, 2014.
The aim of this event was to contribute to the progress of interdisciplinary research on narrative by bringing together scholars in a broad range of disciplines – psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy, linguistics, literary studies, feminist and gender studies, education, medicine, biology, law, theology, etc. – to reflect on the issue of the sometimes contested epistemic powers of narrative.
“What are the relations between narrative and knowledge? How do forms of knowledge inform and produce narratives? How do narratives communicate or produce knowledge? Which ones? What is the nature of narrative knowledge as opposed to other forms of knowledge (common or spontaneous knowledge of reality, scientific knowledge, philosophical ‘wisdom’)? Does narrative constitute a privileged mode of knowledge or is it an epistemologically opaque means of pursuing the truth?” When we sent out the Call for papers, we knew that most areas of the humanities and social sciences, and perhaps some of the exact and natural sciences, would be concerned by a discussion on the status of knowledge in and through narrative. We did not imagine, however, that we would get such a great response. With 38 proposals for panels and 440 proposals for individual papers, i.e. more than 600 paper proposals altogether, from which we had to make a selection, with the participation of many world famous researchers in fields like narrative psychology, narrative sociology, narrative medicine, the 2014 Narrative Matters Conference went beyond all expectations and goals.
The international dimension of the conference should also be stressed: 30 countries were represented, particularly France, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, but also other European countries as well as Australia and several Asian, African and South-American countries. The two conference languages were English and French with some sessions being in both languages. The 2014 Narrative Matters Conference thus followed the trend of international conferences which attract an increasing number of researchers coming from countries other than the host country. This development is particularly important for doctoral candidates and junior researchers, whose numbers have also been growing.
It is difficult to take stock of a scientific event of this nature and scope which offered an opportunity for so many papers and debates. With 6 pre-conference workshops, 4 plenary lectures and 33 panel sessions and 52 paper sessions consisting of 3 or 4 papers, the 7th Narrative Matters Conference, Narrative Knowing/Récit et Savoir, cannot be summed up in a few lines.
The title of the conference was an invitation to explore the complex links between the forms and uses of narrative and the different forms of knowledge. In this perspective, various themes were discussed, some of them already present in the call for papers, with others appearing while the conference program being elaborated and during the conference itself. Only the most prominent topics can be mentioned here.
In the fields of medicine and gerontology, two major areas of focus for the Narrative Matters conferences since their creation, the 2014 Narrative Matters Conference represented an opportunity to discuss the current state of research and to open a dialogue between French researchers, with a growing interest in narrative medicine, and their Canadian and Dutch partners, whose networks have been structured for a long time. Several sessions set up bridges between narrative medicine and literary studies, or between narrative medicine and feminist studies.
The themes of narrative identity and self-knowledge were developed in many panels and individual papers, in medicine as well as in psychology and sociology, both in English and in French.
Narrative sociology has given rise to theoretical and methodological reflections as well as to applications on various topics (food, football, “storygames,” etc.).
History between science and narrative provided the theme for many panels and individual papers, with a strong emphasis on the problem of testimony.
Last, at the intersection of history and literary studies, the problem of the relationship between narrative and fiction was one of the most frequently tackled with papers devoted to autofiction, to counterfactual narratives in literature and history, etc.
As for the other themes developed at the conference, we can also mention, without going into detail: narrative hermeneutics in philosophy, psychoanalysis, political analysis, social sciences; narrative and media; the place of narrative in the new schemes of image; the kinds of knowledge created and transmitted by visual narratives (audiovisual or digital); narrative and knowledge in anthropology, the sociology of religion (“lived religion”); discourses on knowledge and/or implicit knowledge (be they biographical, sociological, anthropological, artistic, etc.) in literature.
N.B.: The texts of the papers presented at Narrative Matters 2014: Narrative Knowing/ Récit et Savoir will soon be available on the open archives platform HAL-Diderot. A collection will be created under the title Proceedings of the 7th Narrative Matters Conference/Actes du 7e Congrès Narrative Matters: Narrative Knowing/ Récit et Savoir (URL: hal-univ-diderot.archives-ouvertes.fr/NARRATIVE_MATTERS/fr).
In the wake of the conference, the Université Paris Diderot and the American University of Paris are proud to announce the creation of the Paris Centre for Narrative Matters, presently hosted by the American University of Paris.
Sylvie Patron & Brian Schiff
Paris Centre for Narrative Matters
Université Paris Diderot & The American University of Paris