European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) Life History and Biography Network Annual Conference, Canterbury Cathedral, 3 – 6 March 2016.
From its first meeting in Geneva, in 1993, the Life History and Biography Network of ESREA has been a forum for a wide range of researchers, including doctoral students, drawing on different disciplinary backgrounds, and coming from every corner of Europe, and beyond. Life history and biographical approaches in adult education and lifelong learning are very diverse, and our conferences are based on recognition and celebration of this diversity.
We have decided to focus here on the place and nature of hope in learning lives, and of the resources of hope that we draw on as both researchers and people, whether at an individual or collective level. We want to consider the role of hope in building better dialogue and connection between diverse peoples, at a time when dialogue often seems difficult and the other and otherness can be experienced as a threat rather than a source of enrichment. The other may be someone of a different class, religion, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation etc. and the dynamics of our interaction may be stifled. Perhaps we may need new resources of hope to help in building a new politics and education of and for humanity, across difference; and for strengthening democratic processes in contexts of diversity.
Among the questions we will ask are: what resources of hope are foregrounded in our research?;what resources of hope have been important in our own lives?; can life-based or narrative research itself offer resources of hope, and if so how and why? Life-histories and auto/biographies represent potential sites of innovation, for transformative learning, for community and political action, in diverse settings as well as for, at a different level, experience, perhaps, of the numinous and sacred. In such terms researching lives goes far beyond ‘pure research’ – or a detached view of academic research in an ivory tower – towards a highly nuanced as well as subjectivist sensibility. The conference seeks to build dialogue around this theme, and differing ways of understanding it: between those who may see the issue as to do with challenging oppression in the secular world and securing control over processes of production and or reproduction; or those who think the spiritual, or even the religious, is a crucial resource of hope (not least given the location of our conference in the Cathedral grounds). We will also be attentive to weaving into our work previous themes of our conferences: embodiment and narrative, critical reflection, social change, agency.
One goal of this conference is to encourage all participants to reflect on their research and to ask themselves about the meaning of hope, at both a social and maybe a more intimate and individual level, as well as methodologically: where hope might lie, in short, in the business of doing research itself, in its myriad forms and dimensions.
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