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2021 – 2025. SSHRC Insight Grant. Oral History Performance, Listening Practices and Transitional Justice.

Oral History Performance, Listening Acts and Transitional Justice explores what participatory oral history performance and listening research may contribute to how listening acts are performed, defined, and assessed in transitional justice scenarios. The project is guided by this overarching question: can participatory oral history performance be used as the laboratory where listening may be "observed" and indicators of "effective" and "ineffective" listening in a transitional justice context may be developed? Our aim is not to reach to a single, unifying definition of listening against which to measure the effectiveness of a listening act. Rather, in keeping with current listening research, our aim is to explore the many complexities of the listening process in a transitional justice context as evidenced by different people and from their different positionalities. Thus, our research is as much about the different positionalities from which a listening act in a transformative justice context may be performed as it is about what those who give testimony expect from being heard. We intend to tackle our research question in four phases spanning over four years: In Phase 1, we develop the theoretical framework for the conceptualization of effective/ineffective listening indicators in a transformative justice context and produce a database of eligible cases; In Phase 2, we develop two performance-workshops based on real-life testimonies by survivors of violence to stage an imaginary, participatory transformative justice process; In Phase 3, we will use the performance-workshops as a laboratory to test the indicators develop in # 1) by recruiting a range of listener-participants; and in Phase 4, we discuss the findings in peer-reviewed journal articles and at national and international conferences.

The project will result in an open access database of examples of effective and ineffective transformative justice processes from across Canada and Colombia. The examples will include efforts made by both state-sanctioned mechanisms (e.g. truth commissions, etc.) and grassroots civilians, including performance creators working at the intersection of oral history, transitional justice, and participatory performance. Over four years, we will develop two performance workshops informed by original and archival oral history interviews and materials. One will present narratives by Colombian survivors of hostage-taking and kidnapping in exile in Canada with whom the PI has already a working relationship; the second performance-workshop will engage listener-participants with narratives by Indigenous Peoples, sharing the impact of colonialism as experienced by them directly in their everyday life. Collaborators Dr. Bimadoshka Pucan, of Saugeen First Nation, and Jessica Carmichael, of mixed Abénaki/Euro heritage will steer that process.


2019- 2021. SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant. Engaging performance audiences as listeners of a restorative justice process in the context of sexual crime. In collaboration with the Centre de Services de Justice Reparatrice, and Professor Rosemary C. Reilly (Applied Human Sciences), Dr. Sharon Gubbay Helfer (COHDS affiliate and compassionate listening certified trainer), and Mss. Jennifer Drummond (coordinator of Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre). ($25,000)

The CSJR is a non-profit organization whose mission is to create safe spaces for people affected by acts of violence and criminal offences, and who wish to engage in a restorative justice (RJ) process based on encounter, sharing and dialogue, to meet, listen to each other, acknowledge the harms done or received, and find ways of repairing those harms together(CSJR 2019). Our partnership aims to use participatory oral history performance strategies to create such space where, in addition to victims and offenders, target audiences such as students and members of the wider community will meet and participate.


2020- 2022. SSHRC Connections Grant. Diasporic Listening: Performative Interventions in Transitional Justice in Colombia and Beyond. In collaboration with the International Victims’ Forum and the Truth Commission of Colombia. ($41,000)

The goal of Diasporic Listening: Performative Interventions in Transitional Justice in Colombia and Beyond is to develop, mobilize and exchange knowledge about the possibilities and difficulties of bringing refugees and, more broadly, exiles into becoming transitional justice actors whose voices matter in the public spheres of both their homes and their host societies. At home, their voices matter as truths of the violent conflict that has displaced them; in their host society, their voices need to be heard in the context of mental health practices and for immigration institutions and integration processes to be reviewed in the light of their narratives. By creating a knowledge exchange forum, by publishing a positioning paper, by producing a podcast and by facilitating a series of performative listening (outreach) activities, our aim is to build an intersectoral, international network of victims’ organizations, scholars, NGO’s, cultural mediators and mental health practitioners.


2020 - 2021. Fine Arts and Perform Research Centre Grant. Preventive health techniques for the performer of painful narratives. Cognitive psychologist Dr. Emily Coffey and I are co-applicants in this grant. Dr. Sylvy Panet-Raymond (Dance) is a collaborator in this project. ($25,000)

This project combines the expertise of Dr Sotelo Castro and Dr Coffey in order to develop an understanding of how an innovative acting technique called headphones verbatim may be used to enable performers to embody someone else’s real-life, emotionally charged narratives with relatively minimal risks. Apparently, and this will be used in this project as a working hypothesis, there is a ‘distancing’ effect in the mediation of the listening-delivery process that may seal the performer from being affected. However, no empirical research exists to date to validate such claims, and anecdotal reports from practitioners and teachers suggest that the technique is not always successful in protecting the performer. There is little understanding of what precise instructions to give to the performers so that they carry out the task effectively and with minimal risks to their mental, emotional health.


2020 - 2021. Fine Arts and Perform Research Centre Grant. Storytelling: Performance Paths towards Truth. This project is led by Dr. Simon Driver (Creative Arts Therapies). I am co-applicant together with Professors Janis Tim-Bottos, Bonnie Harnden, and Shawn Wilkinson (Creative Arts Therapies) ($12,000)


2020 - 2021 Team Start-Up Grant (Concordia). Led by Professor Cynthia Hammond, we are working together with Professor Carmela Cucuzella (Design and Computational Arts) on the project The Spaces for Restorative and Transitional Justice: Architectural History and Oral History. ($20,000)

This project aims to understand the impact of space, that is, the designed and built environment, as the primary physical context of restorative and transitional justice efforts

Contact the 
Acts of Listening Lab

514-848-2424, ext. 5465

General inquiries

Visit the Lab

J.W. McConnell (LB) Building
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W. 
Montreal, QC
H3G IM8 

Mailing address

Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling and Acts of Listening Lab
Concordia University
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W. 
Montreal, QC
H3G 1M8

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