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Conferences & lectures

Not Being Able to Speak Is Torture: Performing Listening to Painful Narratives

Social Justice Speaker Series: Luis Sotelo Castro (Theatre)


Wednesday, March 18, 2020
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Luis C. Sotelo Castro


This event is free


Social Justice Centre


Travis LaCroix


J.W. McConnell Building
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Room LB-362



Abstract. I discuss in this talk a new creative oral history performance approach that my team and I have been developing at Concordia's Acts of Listening Lab over the last two years. I am developing the procedure as a means to intervene in the interaction between survivors of armed conflict and the public they want to reach. I propose that by turning both the narrator and the audience into performers of listening, the procedure places them in a relational context that offers an alternative space in which the victims’ and the public’s memories, emotions and thoughts in a transitional context can be worked through. The method thereby corrects the notion of the public as a disembodied, virtual totality underlying state-led transitional justice institutions. It positions participation oral history performance as a tool for facilitating listening to painful narratives in the context of a small group dynamic and in sites of post-conflict.

Biography. Luis C. Sotelo Castro is Canada Research Chair in Oral History Performance and Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at Concordia University. He is also the second co-director of Concordia’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. In his current research-creation, he investigates modes of listening in the context of oral history performance and, more broadly, in the context of performances of memory. More specifically, the current focus of his research is on listening to narratives by people impacted by political violence and in exile. Since 2002, he has done work with and for internally displaced people, Indigenous communities, migrants, and elderly people in Latin America, the United Kingdom, and in Canada. More recently, he has collaborated with a family of refugees from Colombia living in Quebec and with sound artist Barry Prophet to produce a performative sound installation based on the family’s testimonies of displacement. His creative work has been commissioned by civil society and academic organizations such as the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration. His latest publications explore listening in the context of post-conflict performances of memory. For instance, see his chapter ‘Facilitating voicing and listening in the context of post-conflict performances of memory. The Colombian scenario.’ In: De Nardi, S., Orange, H., et al. Routledge Handbook of Memoryscapes. Routledge: London. (2019), and his article ‘Not being able to speak is torture: performing listening to painful narratives’. International Journal of Transitional Justice, Special Issue Creative Approaches to Transitional Justice: Contributions of Arts and Culture. (forthcoming 2020)

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