Troubling Narratives: Identity Matters

University of Huddersfield, 19 and 20 June 2014

The University of Huddersfield’s long held tradition of hosting conferences on narrative research was recently reinstated as the ‘Troubling Narratives: Identity Matters’. The first conference took place on the 19th and 20th of June, 2014 and attracted over a 120 attendees with over 70 papers across a broad range of disciplines including sociology, psychology, education and business and speakers from both the UK and abroad.

Narrative research traces how narratives and story-telling are central to how we understand and establish social reality, our identities and our communities. Following the conference theme of ‘identity matters’, speakers addressed a variety of topics such as sexuality, gender, work, consumption, ethnicity, youth, ageing and religion. Key discussions included how ‘troubles’ surrounding contemporary narratives of identity involve various interconnections between heard, misheard, unheard and silenced narratives. Many of the papers also focused on issues of narrative methodologies in changing social contexts and the relationship between large social narratives surrounding identities and smaller individual narratives that may change across different social contexts.

This latter focus was explicitly addressed by the two keynote speakers for the event. Both speakers provided an overview of what they saw to be current challenges within narrative research and each highlighted the significance of large and small stories and their relationship to the ongoing development of the field.

In his keynote address, ‘Telling sexual stories twenty years on: Towards a humanist politcs of storytelling’, Professor Ken Plummer from the University of Essex revisited research he conducted twenty years earlier in order both to update his ideas for a contemporary context and to outline empirical, analytical and normative directions for the future. He focused particularly on ‘the need for narratives of humanist grounded utopian hope’ in the creation of a ‘better human world for all’. 

Professor Ann Phoenix from the University of London in her address ‘Narrating trouble in small and big stories: crafting identities in space and place’ drew on research on the crafting of identities in small stories of children’s family negotiations of their relationships to their neighbourhoods and adults’ retrospective narratives of their non-normative childhoods. The research was conducted for the NOVELLA (Narratives of Varied Everyday Lives and Linked Approaches) research node of the National Centre for Research Methods, funded by the Economic and Social Research Centre in the UK.

Several of the conference organisers also presented their research at the conference. Dr Tracey Yeadon-Lee presented findings from her new research project concerning non-binary identities and discussed non-binary identity narratives within Internet blogs. Dr Gráinne McMahon explored the narratives of a group of 'persistent and serious young offenders' as they moved through the youth justice process and Dr Jo Woodiwiss presented her work on the role of dominant narratives and narrative frameworks in women's accounts of childhood sexual abuse.

The papers were of an extremely high quality and stimulated much discussion and debate outside the sessions and networks. The conference was an occasion to make friendships and put forth ideas for joint projects.

The conference was organised by Dr Tracey Yeadon-Lee, Dr Gráinne McMahon, Dr Abigail Locke, Dr Jo Woodiwiss and Dr Sharon Wray (Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences) and Dr Yvonne Downs (Financial Ethics and Governance Research Group). The success of the conference was such that plans are being made to set up a ‘Troubling Narratives’ conference series to be held bi-annually at the University of Huddersfield.

Yvonne Downs
The University of Huddersfield



About us

ENN is the European Narratology Network, an association of individual narratologists and narratological institutions. ENN aims to foster the study of narrative representation in literature, film, digital media, etc. across all European languages and cultures.