Beyond Boundaries

Youth Life Writing, Networked Media, Climate Change: The Challenge of Testimony to the Future




life writing, youth, Greta Thunberg, testimony, networked media, climate change


This article examines some of Greta Thunberg’s life writing as an example of the creativity and ingenuity with which some young people engage with the identity category of ‘youth’ in their life writing. It argues that Thunberg’s activism uses personal testimony in order to amplify expertise testimony as an epistemic source that demands action on climate change. This strategic use of life writing produces a paradoxical, but seemingly effective, form of life writing in which Thunberg provides personal testimony to the future. The article analyses how this paradoxical form of testimony is produced by situating Thunberg’s life writing in the context of the social and political investment in youth as an identity genre central to understanding of the human life course, and to how political responsibility is figured in contemporary western democracies. Drawing on theories of new media as an affective site in which life unfolds, rather than being represented, the paper concludes by reflecting on how Wendy Chun’s argument that networks involve the twinning of habituation and crisis mirrors Thunberg’s argument that action on climate change demands that habitual ways of living and acting must be rethought in response to the climate crisis.

Author Biography

Anna Poletti, Utrecht University

Anna Poletti is an associate professor of English Literature at Utrecht University. With Kate Douglas and John Zuern they co-edit the monograph series New Directions in Life Narrative for Bloomsbury Academic. Their latest book is Stories of the Self: Life Writing After the Book (NYU Press, 2020).





Beyond Boundaries