Negotiated Truths and Iterative Practice: The Women in Conflict Expressive Life Writing Project

Jensen, Meg and Campbell, Siobhan (2019). Negotiated Truths and Iterative Practice: The Women in Conflict Expressive Life Writing Project. In: Douglas, Kate and Barnwell, Ashley eds. Research Methods for Auto/Biography Studies. Routledge Auto/Biography Studies. Routledge, pp. 115–129.



‘I have come to believe that human rights work is, at its heart, a matter of storytelling […] the most important act of rescue […] is not delivering supplies but asking questions, evaluating answers, and pleading with those of us who observe from a distance.’ (Dawes 394)

As James Dawes argues here, storytelling is central to the advancement of human rights in our time. But how these stories are elicited, by whom, using what protocols and under what conditions is at least as important to the success of that humanitarian project as their dissemination. This chapter focuses on the research, collaborative development and delivery of the Women in Conflict Expressive Life Writing Project, which investigates the complex relationship between storytelling and human rights through an intervention at the site of the interview. The aim of this project is to test the use of expressive life writing workshop methodologies with survivors of sexual violence in conflict as an ancillary approach to evidence-gathering that might move beyond ‘do no harm’ by supporting recovery from traumatic experiences. By doing so, the Expressive Life Writing Project interrogates current best practice guidelines on the documentation and investigation of such rights violations and suggests adaptations to existing protocols for the interviewing process.

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