Decentring the Author: Refugee Tales and Collaborative Life Narrative as Activism
Keywords:Refugee Tales, collaborative storytelling, authorship, celebrity activism
This article focuses on collaborative life-storytelling as a tool of socio-political literary activism in the context of the Refugee Tales project. It argues that Refugee Tales is unique: on the one hand, it capitalizes on the cultural authority and ‘attention capital’ (Van Krieken) of well-known writers who offer a scathing critique of the UK asylum system; on the other hand, the project deconstructs this authority through collaboratively-authored life narrative, polyphony, and diversity. Adding value as a marketable name, public face, and articulate voice, the celebrity author nevertheless experiences a decentring, as the focus shifts towards more dialectic and inclusive negotiations of authorship. In this process, the myth of the white, male author genius is dismantled and replaced by an emphasis on the collaborative and the collective. What takes centre stage instead is the powerful process of storytelling as an act of remembrance, recording, and bearing witness, emerging as a collective endeavour through exchange, repetition, and circulation within the public sphere. This storytelling project thus has the potential to disrupt, and ultimately change, dominant discourses around migration, displacement, and asylum. Furthermore, Refugee Tales problematizes the ideology of individualism that underlies the cult of the genius author, autobiographical narrative, and celebrity construction.
Copyright (c) 2023 Sandra Mayer
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