May 29th, 2019: Amor narratio: A celebration of the 80th birthday and the life and work of Cathy Riessman

In honour of the eightieth birthday of Catherine Kohler Riessman, a central figure in narrative research internationally for three decades, Greenwich University’s Centre for Research on Employment and Work (CREW), UCL’s Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU), and UEL’s Centre for Narrative Research (CNR) and Feminist Research Group (FRG) were delighted to host a symposium, ‘Amor Narratio’, to celebrate her life, career and narrative scholarship, on May 29, 2019, at Greenwich University, London.
This was a delightful and crowded day, which brought together international scholars for presentations and discussions that reflected on and illuminated Riessman’s work, and also that of the field of narrative research generally.

Pictured: Riessman and Maria Tamboukou, one of the key organisers along with Ruth Ballardie of Greenwich University); Riessman with Lars-Christer Hyden and Paul Atkinson; Wendy Luttrell, Hyden, Molly Andrews and Ann Phoenix.


May 28th: Graduate students and Cathy Riessman in conversation

Reiessman graduate seminar

This afternoon, Prof Cathy Riessman, prior to the ‘Amor Narratio’ event for her 80th birthday, met with a group of graduate students to discuss their and her research, directions in narrative research – a wonderful afternoon, with many possibilities opening up in the work of these young scholars.

May 14th, graduate seminar: Positionality of the ‘self’ in stories of Zambian teachers living with HIV and ART: Sanny Mulubale, UEL/UNZA

CNR-TCRU Postgraduate Narrative Research Seminars, 2018-2019

 Centre for Narrative Research (CNR), University of East London

and the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU), UCL Institute of Education


Critical citizens: Positionality of the ‘Self’ in stories of Zambian teachers living with HIV and on antiretroviral therapy (ART)

Sanny Mulubale, University of East London and University of Zambia

Tuesday 14th May 2019, 5 – 6.30pm

Library, Thomas Coram Research Unit, 27 – 28 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA

All welcome, particularly graduate students.


Identity is often told through socially positioned narratives that take a biographical approach. Biomedical studies, though, tend to portray the ‘self’ of people with chronic illnesses from the physiological and clinical perspectives of effective diagnosis, treatment and care. Such perspectives may not provide adequate models for people with chronic illnesses to theorize, perform and live selfhood. Semi-structured interviews with 41 HIV positive teachers in Zambia aged between 25 – 55 were conducted in an attempt to explore narrated sense of ‘self’ for individuals with HIV and on antiretroviral therapy (ART).  A thematic analysis operating at three levels and using elements of discourse analysis was employed. The aim of this presentation is to explore ways through which HIV positive teachers position themselves in their stories of life on ART, and important framings of ‘critical citizenship’ that emerge. A treatable illness, HIV has both latent and visible psychological, social and economic effects on infected and affected individuals (Lichtenstein 2015:858; Squire 2013). The paper suggests that the positionality of the self in stories of living with this treatable though not curable virus, offers powerful tools for understanding everyday lives on ART.  In this study, the unending treatment practices around HIV were associated with, for instance, positionings within a supportive biomedical citizen-state contract around HIV treatment, in relation to de/professionalisation, in relation to ‘accepting’ or resisting lifelong medication, and as a citizen within ‘pharmaceutical colonialism’. The overall argument in this paper is that ‘self’ narrative among HIV positive teachers in Zambia appear to be shaped by the importance of community-based health care, by past experiences and present events, and by ongoing uncertainties about their desired futures. The identity entanglements and fragmentations of selfhood under contemporary biomedicine and biopolitics seem to be pivotal for critical HIV citizens such as the participants in this study.

Keywords: Citizenship, Positionality, Narrative, Citizenship, HIV, Self, Health, Positionality, Zambia

Sanny Mulubale is a graduate from the University of Sheffield’s politics department and University of Zambia (UNZA). He is currently a 2016 Commonwealth Scholar studying for a PhD at the University of East London. He is a lecturer at UNZA in civic education and a researcher with keen interest in identity, citizenship, global politics and the govermentalisation of health. His work has been in and within learning institutions, government departments, non-governmental organizations, research institutes, and community-based initiatives. His fascination is with the nexus between theory and empirical evidence in both research and policy frameworks. His research has appeared in both local and international journals.

For further details, please contact Corinne Squire at or Carolina Guttierez Munoz, Thomas Coram Research Unit graduate partner, .Details are also on the CNR blog and the CNR website

To Think is To Experiment, CNR’s Postgraduate Research Day – 2nd May

CNR image 2

Centre for Narrative Research

To Think is To Experiment, Postgraduate Research Day                                             

University Square Stratford, Room: USS 1.01


The event is free but places are limited. Please drop an e-mail to Cigdem Esin ( to book a place.


10.00 – 10.30

Welcome and Introductions

 10.30 – 11.00

 In Memory of Siyanda Ndlovu

Reflections on Postgraduate Narrative Scholarship

Molly Andrews, Cigdem Esin, Aura Lounasmaa, Corinne Squire

 11.00 – 11.30

Memory and imagination: bridging the gap between theory and analysis

Michelle Harewood, University of East London

11.30 – 12.00

Teaching with heart, body, and mind: a case study of the potential of drama-based pedagogies in teacher education

Eva Goksel, The University of Teacher Education Zug, Switzerland.

 12.00 -12.30

Coffee Break

 12.30 – 13.00

The adaptation of the literary concept of heteronym: characterization in contemporary art

Jeroen van Dooren, The Royal College of Art, London

 13.00 -13.30

Narrative analysis and comparing the use of NVivo with a ‘small story’ approach – how important is subjective ‘truth’?

Sandra Lyndon & Eva Mikuska, University of Chichester

 13.30 – 14.30

Lunch Break

14.30 – 15.00

Narrative research and experiences of people with mild learning difficulties who are looking for paid work

Ruth Tarlo, University of Nottingham

15.00 – 15.30

The champion code approach: knowledge creating conversations being all-round genius

Arthur Brogden Male, Institute of Education, University College London

15.30 – 15.45

Coffee Break

15.45 -16.15

‘Constantly walking on eggshells’: The lived experience of siblings of adolescents with an eating disorder

Laura Patterson, University of Northampton

16.15 – 16.45

The Road Home Study: Exploring the Intersection of Gang Membership and Childhood Exposure to Domestic Abuse

Jade Levell, The Open University

16.45 – 17.15

Discussion over drinks


Memory and imagination: bridging the gap between theory and analysis

Michelle Harewood, University of East London

Several recent reports highlight continued inequalities and disadvantage for Black British Caribbean communities in the UK. As a minority within the black British community they are often forgotten or, subsumed within the wider black British community in research and literature. However, they are the most excluded section of this group, experiencing higher school exclusion rates, lower attainment and progress.  The Notting Hill Carnival started in 1966 as a response to historic racism and discrimination. By the 1970’s it had become known as the ‘Caribbean Carnival’. Using memory and imagination the carnival re-creates history, heritage and culture in a modern socio-political form. Consequently, members of the ‘carnival community’ translate this into their individual realities and experience. Therefore, using Notting Hill Carnival this paper explores the relationship between memory and imagination as theory and, as tools of analysis within narrative research.

Teaching with heart, body, and mind: a case study of the potential of drama-based pedagogies in teacher education

Eva Goksel, The University of Teacher Education Zug, Switzerland.

How can embodied forms of teaching and learning (Piazzoli, 2018), such as Drama in Education (DiE), contribute to student teacher professional development in Switzerland? What narratives do the participants of embodied education create and how does this shape their professional development? This paper analyses the narratives of four primary school student teachers, as they explore the potential and the pitfalls of teaching and learning through drama across the curriculum over a two year period.

The qualitative research methods used in this study include videography and narrative inquiry (Kohler Riessman, 2008). Via stimulated recall and narrative interviews, the student teachers reflect on their initial DiE training by a drama specialist as well as on their teaching experiences using drama-based pedagogies in their practicums.

Weaving together the stories of four Swiss student teachers, this qualitative study aims to examine their professional narratives as they reflect upon, and experiment with, drama-based pedagogies in theory and practice.


Piazzoli, E. (2018). Embodying Language in Action: The Artistry of Process Drama in Second Language Education. Springer.

Riessman, C. K. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. Sage.

 The adaptation of the literary concept of heteronym: characterization in contemporary art

Jeroen van Dooren, The Royal College of Art, London

The heteronym is a literary concept which refers to one or more imaginary character(s) created by a writer to write in different styles or to write from a different perspective.

The use of the idea of heteronym in this research is as I think the concept is intended to be, a way to investigate working from a different perspective as narrations separate from the self. It is a form of depersonalisation and simulation moving from self to other and back. I am trying to better understand how the heteronym can function within contemporary art and how autobiografiction or autofiction can be part of this. In my art practice I invent fictional characters, assume their persona and make work as the fictional persona. The characters come alive via performances, text and audio pieces. The fictional characters are not there as a tool for hiding or masking but are used as an instrument to investigate character development in contemporary art.

Narrative analysis and comparing the use of NVivo with a ‘small story’ approach – how important is subjective ‘truth’?

Sandra Lyndon & Eva Mikuska, University of Chichester

Narrative analysis has predominantly focuses on written texts, which might have started out as spoken accounts. Analysis of narratives often involves the close examination of ‘stories as stories’ (Squire et al., 2014) and how these might be constructed and performed by the ‘actor’ involved in the data collection process. More recently, however, there has been interest in how computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (QDAS), usually more associated with quantitative research, could be used to analyse narratives. One such example is NVivo, which claims to provide a rich insight into human data. In this presentation Sandra Lyndon and  Eva Mikuska, both narrative researchers, compare the use of NVivo to Bamberg and Georgakouplou’s (2008) ‘small story’ analytical approach. The limitations and benefits of these different approaches are discussed together with a comparison of how they might lead to different or complementary analysis of narratives.

Narrative research and experiences of people with mild learning difficulties who are looking for paid work

Ruth Tarlo, University of Nottingham

This paper discusses early findings of a doctoral study exploring the experiences of unemployment, looking for work and being in work, of people with mild learning difficulties. The research also explores wider issues relating to self-identification with disability-related labels. All research participants self-identified with the term ‘learning difficulties’ and experienced a range of cognitive impairments and differences, but were not eligible for adult social care services within the UK welfare state. The research data was gathered through multiple narrative interviews with 16 participants in 2017 and 2018. The findings show that, although participants face widespread ignorance and prejudice about their cognitive differences, many have an uncertain relationship with notions of disability and may or may not identify with the term ‘disabled’ and associated legal and economic rights. This paper explores how narrative inquiry can illuminate the relationship between stories of paid and unpaid work experiences and the meaning and impact of disability. It also considers some of the benefits and challenges involved in using a narrative methodology in research with people with cognitive differences and difficulties.

The Champion Code Approach: Knowledge Creating Conversations Being All-round Genius

Arthur Brogden Male, Institute of Education, University College London

For some years, I have been searching for a more effective way of education. This has evolved into The Champion Code Approach. Its basic premise is that everybody has a huge wealth of experience to draw on. This is their education. Knowledge creating conversations with self, others, nature and the unknown are innate, self-evident, evolving and empirical. Knowledge creating conversation narratives provide the means enabling every person to demonstrate they are champions being all-round genius. Knowledge creating conversation champion codes (K4C) narrate new and expected forms of education experience and establish the fluctuating boundaries of learning relativity: 1. ∞ learning = energy (awareness) ², 2. Creative emerging systems and 3. The unifying theory of complementarity, compatibility and reliability. K4C personhood stories mediate beliefs, faith, principles, creeds and behaviour, systems, laws, codes. Individual K4C narratives challenge marginalising conditions and develop conversation studies curricula, common elements of education, dramaturgic docu-studies and the arts-science-education-in-performance model of global learning. The K4C approach locates authenticity, authority and autonomy with individuals.

This paper explores how persons of all abilities, ages, backgrounds and conditions utilise K4C narratives to join faith in the unknown, listening, understanding and knowing their real self and truth?

‘Constantly walking on eggshells’: The lived experience of siblings of adolescents with an eating disorder

Laura Patterson, University of Northampton

This qualitative research explored siblings’ lived experience where an adolescent in the family has an eating disorder (ED).  This is through reflexive analysis of their narratives, to understand their individual experience and to give voice to the siblings who have often not been consulted in existing research.  Designed to inform support needs of siblings to professionals through findings from this research alongside a PhotoVoice exhibition.

One semi-structured interview with three participants aged 16 to 25 followed by a PhotoVoice project and second interview, analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis with attention to first-time experience as a researcher, including ethical dilemmas.

Analysis of data identified three superordinate themes.  Firstly, the lived experience of siblings in daily life and ‘good days and bad days’.  Secondly, the experience of the power of the ED exploring coping mechanisms and the terror and horror of facing death.  Thirdly, the experience of support and discussion on desired support.

Data exposed a primarily negative effect on sibling’s relationships and wellbeing.  Adaptive coping strategies were evident in the face of adversity and emotional stress.  Siblings concluded that support received was inadequate and highlighted the need for changes to provide targeted and timely support.

The Road Home Study

Exploring the Intersection of Gang Membership and Childhood Exposure to Domestic Abuse

Jade Levell, The Open University

The Road Home study focuses on the lives of young men who have experienced domestic violence and abuse (DVA) in childhood and become involved ‘on road’ and/or with gangs. Witnessing DVA is relatively commonplace for children, with up to one in four young people in the UK having lived with DVA in childhood (Bently et al. 2016). There are various ramifications of childhood exposure to abuse which are varied and individual (Hague, Harvey, & Willis, 2012; Wolfe et al. 2003). Witnessing DVA abuse at home has been proposed as a risk factor for later gang membership in policy documents (Centre for Social Justice, 2009; HM Government, 2011) and there have been reports by professionals of a high prevalence of gang members who have been exposed to DVA.

In The Road Home Study two narrative techniques are used. The first is life-story interviews (Plummer, 2001) which is aided by music elicitation (Allett, 2010). Participants were asked to bring three music tracks to assist them in telling parts of their life story. The analysis is still ongoing. The approach of this is discourse analysis, inspired by a Foucauldian approach to narrative analysis (Tamboukou, 2013). A particular focus of the analysis is seeing how gender is performed by the participants, particularly with a lens of intersectionality.

THE DJ SET AS A NARRATIVE, OR: ONE NIGHT WITH HONEY DIJON. Adriana Prates, University of Bahia, Brazil.

Prates poster For the Many (1)Prates poster Honey Dijon (1)



Actor Network Theory (ANT) proposes a different way to look to what we call “reality” and a different way to do sociology. According to Bruno Latour (2012), ANT is an alternative social theory that, among other things, argues that the social must be “done”, gives primacy to associations and postulates the agency of objects. Instead of pre-defining the form of the social, ANT emphasizes that this form is “done” through the movement, flows and associations of actors (including non-humans) who participate in the process of the formation and transformation of networks. The “social” does not exist, hidden, in the world, waiting to be discovered or unveiled by the scientists: it is “done” continuously.

John Law (2009) understands ANT less as a theory (because it is more descriptive than explanatory) and more as an approach that is part of the family of tools, sensitivities, and methods of semiotic analyYis, which treats all things as effects generated continuously in the webs of relationships in which they are located. ANT studies, says Law (2009), explores and describes the networks and practices of these relationships. Finally, he summarizes: “material semiotics” (ANT studies) explores the promulgation of realities (the ontological) as well as describing the making of knowledge (epistemology). Referring the discussion to the field of ethics, Law (2009) states that goods (or evils), knowledge and realities, are all promulgated together. It is worth emphasizing that the ANT authors do not dissociate the enterprise of knowing the reality of the act from creating it. In this sense, researching / studying / writing also means making and drawing networks[1].

Annemarie Mol, considered by some as a post ANT theorist, invests in the aspect of performativity and speaks of ontological politics and multiple realities. According to Mol, there is not just one ontology, which precedes the practices of knowledge. For Mol, ontologies are “made” (performed or acted, instituted, implemented, occasioned) through the practices. And because there are many practices, there are many ontologies. On the other hand, the different realities coexist and relate, are linked, which poses the question of their coordination / organization, thus introducing the political dimension: which version of reality, for example, takes precedence over the others? What sustains such primacy? These are good questions to ask and very pertinent to the subject I wish to address in this text, where I try to initiate a reflection on narratives from the perspective of actor-network theory, considering the action of the materialities in the narrative process. In this sense, I propose that narrative can be thought of in a performative sense and that the materialities can be considered as active elements in the process.


In week 8 of the Narrative Research course at the Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London, in which I recently participated, one online discussion involved an interpretation of a poster called “For the Manydem”. I found the poster interesting but I was not able to understand the message, whose political meaning was admirably described by a colleague on the course[3]. I did not have the resources to understand the narrative in the poster because I did not know the signs implied in the message. I spent some time thinking about this and about the different kind of ‘narratives’, especially those related to art, that are not usually considered in these terms (that is, as narratives).

A few days after this episode I had a conversation with a professor, in which I told her that the DJ set is a narrative. She seemed a little disbelieving but I added that veterans DJs often say that good DJs “tell stories” through their sets. A week later I went to a London nightclub to see Honey Dijon, a House Music DJ who is active and popular in electronic music scenes at this moment. But, before I talk about the night I spent with Honey Dijon, for my purposes in this text it will be necessary to describe, at least briefly, the “evolution” of the electronic music scene in the world and the role of House Music in the story.

This story began in the 1970’s, in New York City locations/clubs frequented predominantly by black and latino queens, who danced to a combination of predominantly black rhythms (funk, soul, underground disco …). From the way the songs were performed and the mood that the combination of songs would bring to those places, originated the concept of House Music. Because of this background, House can be considered the first electronic genre of music produced for and on dancefloors.

From Chicago and New York, House Music crossed the Atlantic ocean in the mid-1980’ s to win the world and inspire the emergence of other styles of electronic music, which diversified in the 2000’ s, gaining a high level of influence and popularity.

But, just like any novelty full of creativity and spirit, House Music was appropriated, in large part, by the market([4]) in a process that has become even more violent in recent years due to two phenomena that I propose to consider together here: the development of the technology related to DJiing and producing music- which increased access to these two fields, specially the DJiing, because it has now becomes a very easy thing to do; and the fact that the DJ has become a kind of “pop idol”, which has provoked exclusion (from the market) of artists outside a certain body / age / racial pattern.

As a result, some producers and DJs have been making a lot of money from the creation and execution of songs destined for the dance music market, pasteurizing timbres and references to styles like House and Techno, inventing attractive labels to boost their pastiches in the market, without worrying about transmitting to the consumers anything about the history and foundation of this kind of music. This is how this market and scene are working nowadays. And the DJ, a key character in the scene, is becoming a brand and also a manager of social networks instead of an artist([5]). Nowadays, the electronic music derived from House moves fortunes, which meanwhile stay very far from the hands of the communities that gave House life. Likewise, this music of underground and libertarian origin, generated in contexts frequented by Black and Latino people (People of Color) belonging to the LGBT + segment of the population, now has an increasingly white and middle class audience.

DJ Honey Dijon is very critical of this marketing appropriation, which has as a consequence not only emptying out the artistic/aesthetic aspects of House Music, but also erasing the dimension of resistance that underlies the emergence of House. To exemplify her political position, I reproduce here one of her many public Facebook posts about thesubject:

And I’m gonna be the bitch to say it. I love House Music more than life itself. But shit these days is more about surface than substance and that´s why shit is stagnant as fuck. Everyone is staying in their own lane. It’s become entertainment as opposed to community. Motherfuckers consume rather than contribute. Bring back the freaks, the misfits, the odd balls and the kids that had nothing other than personality and a prayer. Also soul. Stop making house music about ticket sales and social media followers and agendas. Wasn’t it supposed to be about the music in the first fucking place?I#bringhousemusicback .

In interviews, Honey often mentions that she grew up in the 1970s and that her parents listened to a lot of soul and funk with political messages: “I grew up in a generation where music was attached to cultural and social change,” she says in an interview with Mixmag, and adds that much of the music she was listening to in her childhood was aligned with the civil rights movement.

I do not know if it is possible to say that House was originally created as a resistance music, but it has acquired this characteristic even if it is just due to the spaces where it was born and developed (ballrooms and clubs for black and Latino people LGBTQI +) together with its ethic of diversity and respect. In these spaces, such people, stigmatized by society in general, could socialize more freely and in protected ways and finally could recognize themselves as a community. For LGBTQI+ people, these contexts where House Music was the soundtrack, were the basis of the culture of these groups, simply because they provided for the coexistence of these people and for the exercise of an identity and expression related to their dissident sexualities (and/or genders, in some cases). Yes, I am saying that the party has a political dimension, as well as the property of gathering people and things, building communities and cultures.

For Honey Dijon, being a black and transsexual woman, and for a lot of LGBTQI + people, these places were not only sites of amusement. They represented a space where it was possible to be yourself without being threatened or attacked (psychologically or bodily). For people like Honey, as said in the Mixmag article, House Music culture was not only a passion but a necessity.

In spite of all this, if we take on the exercise of thinking as Bruno Latour and other ANT authors propose, arguing that ontologies, as well as realities, are multiple, we would have to assume that the origin of Eletronic Music scene is dispersed. And I must agree with those authors, because, how, for example, can we honestly say that an ultra-commercial festival like Tomorrowland is necessarily linked with 80’s Chicago? Or that The Continental Baths, a NY gay sauna where House Music founders Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles, two black homosexuals, started their careers in the 70´s – is linked to Fatboy Slim DJiing at carnival in Bahia, where he played for a huge crowd in the streets? Reasoning along other lines, how can we forget that the equipment for DJing was created and produced in parts of the globe sometimes very far from the places where they ended up being used([6])? It is precisely because of this kind of conclusion that I think that the narrative (here, the DJ set), in this sense, unites the points, and can be seen as a resistance to the just-mentioned dispersion. To narrate, or to play, from this perspective, would mean to draw or create a network where, according to the elements summoned to compose the narrative and the way in which the process of chaining takes place, the narrator may or may not recognize certain protagonisms. With this, to narrate becomes a political act.

HONEY DIJON´S NARRATIVE (or: Honey Dijon´s DJ Set)

Now let’s go back to the cold night in December of 2018, when I went to see Honey Dijon djiing at Corsica Studio, an alternative club in London, located in Elephant & Castle. I think that Corsica Studio cannot be considered a gay or queer venue, but it looks like any person is welcome there, since the club focus seems to be on music. That night, the room where the DJ performed was so crowded that I had to climb on a sofa since I, a small statured person, was at a disadvantage within the volcano in which the dancefloor became. Most of the people there were white and young (looking to be less than 30 years old). They paid between £8 (super-early bird) and £15 to be there (the club also sold two intermediary levels of tickets costing £10 and £ 12. £15 was the final price). Everybody looked to be at the club for the music: there was nothing about taking selfies or wasting time with flirting, just everyone wanting to enjoy the music.

With the Honey Dijon set, the crowd went insane. Using effects to add layers of sounds and vocals to the tracks, she declared, first and foremost, that House Music is queer and black. She declared that House came from Disco Music and is a relative of Techno([7]), too, especially Detroit Techno. That House is a sensual and spiritual music about being yourself and being part of a community, and that we must preserve the dream and utopia that House created.

Honey started the journey that night, of course, from Chicago. She opened her set with the track “I’ll be your friend” by Robert Owens, the legendary lead singer / producer of House’s early days, and went on to tell that audience where House Music came from and what its principles. She showed where the club culture came from, a culture which now generates fortunes that are going into very few hands. She did this through the choice of songs and their chaining, and through the addition of vocals and timbres, sometimes filtered through the effects provided by a machine (a sound table or mixer). It is also necessary to emphasize the role of the materialities in the narrative, like the Funktion One soundsystem of the club. Because electronic music has to be felt as a totality, it is not sufficient to listen to it loudly. The frequencies also have a role in this experience that should involve the whole body and (why not say it?) the spirit. And those are only provided by a good sound system, which involves a lot of different equipment and cables, for example.


The sax sounds that Honey Dijon put on the beats told us about the Latin and Jazz influences in House Music. Some vocals and melodies she inserted told us about tracks that became popular because they were born classic – and not because someone paid to inflate them in the market. Honey also took us repeatedly to New York, especially to the New York of the 90´s, through inserting the strong beats of Tribal, a substyle of House that used to move gay audiences around the world. She used the vocals of Celeda and Sylvester to remind us that transgender and nonconforming-gender people were there, at the base of the whole phenomenon’s DNA. And when she released, over the beats, a recording of “I have a dream,” she told us that she has a dream. But she also reminded us that, half a century later, Martin Luther King’s dream of an egalitarian society not only did not come true but still seems far away.

We, from the electronic music community, do not usually mention lyrics; we always talk in terms of vocals. Currently, playing songs with vocals ends up being something specific, because vocals were losing space in the kind of scene that Honey used to play[8]. But the vocals were there, at the beginning, especially in House Music from New York, which was very fond of virtuoso feminine voices, gospel-style. “Do not forget where we came from”, the DJ, playing those vocals, seemed to say.

Continuing to discuss materialities: nowadays, because of technological evolution, there are a large number of resources for Djiing. It does not mean that there has necessarily been an improvement in the art and techiques of DJiing. It can mean just the opposite, instead: today, a DJ can simply play the songs from a notebook computer, which does not require any specific ability; or can bring a ready-made DJ set from home and concentrate his/her performance on lifting the crowd using their nice look or exotic appearance, or a microphone. Modern equipment “allows” it. Besides, it´s not necessary, any more, to have (buy) physical records (vinyls or CD), for example.

Some people like to look cool and say that the DJ’s work is about “music”. This is true, in some sense, but, at the same time, it makes me think about Latour´s concepts of mediator and intermediator. For this author, mediators transform the meanings or elements they convey, while intermediaries convey meanings or forces without transformation (2012, p.65).

In this sense, certainly the equipment used by the DJ can be understood as an intermediary, but when I examine the networks in which these types of objects are inserted, the conclusion that stands out is that the multiplication of equipment for DJiing and the possibilities brought about by the internet changed completely a whole scene; and this highlights the ‘mediator’ characteristics of these elements. The equipment is not “passive”. The non-human elements act, too, in conjunction with the human elements.

We have to recognize that the advance of technology and the creation of a series of new equipment items has turned DJiing into a very easy thing to do, if we consider the technical aspects – and in terms of aesthetics, too, because it is possible to find ready-made sets, playlists, and so on, on the internet. Doing musical research is now very easy, too, and you can have the music in few minutes (the distance is just some few “clicks” away). In practical terms, a person does not need to have albums, either, or buy any music, if they do not want: they can download music from the internet, even without paying, in some cases. These facts are not good or bad in themselves, but they have brought some consequences to the market and to the artistic and aesthetic aspects of DJing.

So, the fact that, for example, a DJ chooses to play using vinyl records in an era where there are a huge number of new resources is something that helps to compose the narrative, because, in my view, that choice can include a message against the pasteurization of an entire scene, since vinyl mixing requires a specific presence and attention from the DJ, not to mention practice (which requires time to learn and improve ability). Of course there are DJs who play very well, with soul and even in a sophisticated way, using controllers and software; but, in practice([9]), what we have been seeing are people of “good appearance” pressing only three buttons on machines that offer millions of possibilities.


The Honey Dijon “DJ set” certainly wove a narrative network, in which she associated heterogeneous entities of different kinds, such as equipment, effects, and volumes, to tell a story. We must consider the tracks she chose to this narrative network, too! But I think there is another specificity to consider in a network woven through a narrative, especially an artistic narrative()[10]: its reception. How did my traveling companions, the people who were with me at the club, get the message from Honey? It is true that many people might have known who Honey Dijon is and what she proposes through her work, because this can be ascertained through journalists’ reports, interviews and the social media of the artist. Things does not exist in isolation, is what I mean to say. But, back to the beginning of the text, where I told of my inability to interpret the ‘For the Manydem’ poster: I thought that, similarly, maybe another student of the same course might not be able to understand a “DJ set” as a narrative or to build an interpretation of it. If the student were not a clubgoer, he or she might not even notice that there was a narrative there. Perhaps he/she would simply have thought that was a very noisy environment. Or maybe he or she would just have loved everything and danced a lot, which is, after all, the best way to understand a DJ narrative. Alternatively, I could just hang the poster on the wall of my room simply because I like the colours of it, for example. There are a lot of different possibilities of understanding.

I was thinking of finishing this piece by saying that it is necessary to have adequate tools to “properly understand” some narratives. But I concluded that it is better to problematize the category “understanding”, since we are talking about art and its understanding passes through affect, which is a powerful mediator, without any doubt. However, with this, I think that we are already entering into a new debate that maybe we could discuss in another text…

With special thanks for the advice of Corinne Squire.

Adriana received the support of Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior – Brasil – (CAPES) – Finance Code 001. 


LATOUR, Bruno. Reagregando o Social: uma introdução à Teoria do Ator-Rede. Salvador, Edufba, 2012.

LAW, John. Notas sobre a Teoria Do Ator-Rede: ordenamento, estratégia e heterogeneidade. (tradução de Fernando Manso)

LAW, John. (2009), “Actor network theory and material semiotics”, in B. Turner (ed.), The New Blackwell Companion to social theory, Malden, MA, Blackwell, pp. 141-158.

LAWRENCE, Tim. Love saves the day. A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79. Duke University Press. EUA: 2003.

MARTIN, Denise; SPINK, Mary Jane; PEREIRA, Pedro Paulo Gomes. Corpos múltiplos, ontologias políticas e a lógica do cuidado: uma entrevista com Annemarie Mol.Interface (Botucatu), Botucatu, v. 22, n. 64, 295-305, Mar. 2018. Available from <;. access on 25 Dec. 2018.


Honey Dijon Social media: facebook




Poster “For the Manydem”.

Poster of the Rhythm Session Party with Honey Dijon.


[1]    This statement is interesting in thinking about this article as an actor-network, too.

[2]    We use “set” to describe the collection or array of music played by a DJ at one gig.


[3]    Thanks to Reginald Ajuonuma for starting and animating this discussion.

[4]          It is important to note that I do not use the term ‘market’ to name an entity whose action explains the situation described here. On the contrary: the market is also a network that needs to be explained. In this sense, a possible characterization of the market would be through the content of the connections that make up its features, such as the monetarized exchanges of products and services, combined with marketing and administration systems and the movements of financial capital. The market, in its larger dimensions, intertwines with smaller or local networks, including those belonging to other fields, such as art, for example.

[5]          Or maybe nowadays to be an artist means this?

[6]          I remember DJ Dolores mentioning, in a lecture held at the event called “Sound Landscapes”, held in 2017 in the city of Cachoeira-Bahia, that the rhythmic cell of Jamaican Dancehall originated from a Japanese keyboard.

[7]          The Techno influence is notable in Honey Dijon´s sets, too, since House and Techno have much in common, specially at the beginning. In this sense, it is necessary to mention Techno´s black roots, too.

[8]          She plays regularly, for example, at Berlin´s Berghein, considered one of the eletronic world’s meccas.

[9]          One of the main Latour´s (2012) recomendation is to pay attention to what happens “in practice”.


[10]         I sent an earlier version this text to Tim Lawrence, a writer and professor at the University of East London, in the United Kingdom, and he made an important comment: in his understanding, the advent of mixing, a practice that became, in his words, “semi-mandatory” in the second half of the 80’s, took away the storytelling aspect of the DJ´s set, because the DJs became more focused on the moment of the mix. In Lawrence´s view, the DJ´s storytelling had its peak between 1972 and 1987. I understand his point and passion for the time mentioned, but I prefer to consider the mix as an “actant”, that is, as a performative element that integrates and acts in the narrative of the DJ. After all, regardless of the fact that I really enjoy the mixing, my interest is not to establish what is better or worse, much less what is right or wrong, but to reflect on narratives from the ANT perspective.

To those that do not know, the mixing is the moment when the DJ puts two (or more, in some cases) pieces of music together. To do this, with the help of headphones, the DJ needs to use the pitch control at the turntables (or CDJs) to put the tracks at the same velocity and to use the mixer to open the two volumes and let the audience enjoy the moment that the tracks go along together. At least, older electronic music DJs needed to know how to mixing using the equipment I mentioned, but today any cheap software can do this for the DJ.

April ’19 CNR-TCRU graduate research seminar: ‘Inside stories: A prison narrative.

CNR-TCRU Postgraduate Narrative Research Seminars, 2018-2019

Organised by the Centre for Narrative Research (CNR), University of East London

and the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU), UCL Institute of Education


Inside stories: A prison narrative

Peter Phillips, Cardiff Tuesday 2nd April 2019, 5 – 6.30pm

Library, Thomas Coram Research Unit, 27 – 28 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA

All welcome, particularly graduate students.


Phillips seminar materials


Dr Peter Phillips conducted ethnographic research, largely through narrative, with chaplains in thirty-two prisons in England and Wales, approximately a quarter of the total. He himself had previously been a full time chaplain in prisons; he is therefore both a researcher and a practitioner. Since chaplains are both tellers and receivers of narrative, it was important to develop a methodology appropriate to the respondents. The chaplains’ experience and perception of themselves and the prison is frequently set in stories which are embedded in a wider narrative. The location of the researcher in relation to the respondent and to the dialogue site is a significant factor in contextualising narratives which are essentially co-constructed.

The session will offer an opportunity to augment or contest Peter’s own categories and analyses; sample vignettes will be available either online and/or on the day. All such narratives are potentially intertextual; they are therefore capable of playing into discourses of institutional power, ritual, status, gender, space/place, authority both formal and informal, even (occasionally) pastoral ministry.  You don’t need a personal religious belief, a familiarity with religion, or knowledge of prisons, to come and take part in this session.


Peter Phillips has a Master’s from Bristol University and a Master’s and a PhD from Cardiff University, where he is Honorary Research Associate in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion . His current research interest is taiko Japanese drumming in Wales. He has contributed a practical module on narrative analysis, Institutional Stories in Prisons, to a Sage online methodology database and has written the entry on Religious Studies and Qualitative Research for the up-coming Sage Research Methods Foundation.


For further details, please contact Corinne Squire at or Carolina Guttierez Munoz, Thomas Coram Research Unit graduate partner, . Details are also on the CNR blog and the CNR website


March 2019, TCRU-CNR graduate research seminar

CNR-TCRU Postgraduate Narrative Research Seminars, 2018-2019

Organised by the Centre for Narrative Research (CNR), University of East London

and the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU), UCL Institute of Education


‘The Family that’s Your Roots’ — A South Asian adolescent’s co-construction of identities

Anmeris Puscasu, TCRU, UCL Institute of Education

Room G1 (Seminar Room) 18 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA

Tuesday 12th March 2019, 5 – 6.30pm

All welcome, particularly graduate students

It has become a commonplace that an important part of our autobiographical narratives is the construction, reconstruction and co-construction of the meaning of stories within the context of life experiences and the surrounding socio-cultural environment (Turunen et al., 2015; Frosh, S., Phoenix, A., & Pattman, R, 2002; Bamberg, M., De Fina, A. & Schiffrin, D 2011).  As such, identity construction has been found to be partly based on the reminiscences of others rather than being entirely based on events we experience first-hand (Fivush, 2008).  Through the process of memory and the creation, re-creation and co-creation of experiences, intergenerational narratives provide models for understanding our own experiences, and how our story fits into larger socio-historical frameworks (Fivush, et al., 2010; Bohanek et al., 2009; Turunen et al., 2015; Merrill et al., 2017).Thus, stories told to young people about their families, and recounted by them contribute to the processes of identity construction in much the way that Bruner and others have considered that story telling is interlinked with the construction of identities. This presentation draws on material collected for my PhD study (conducted in New York City, March 2018 – February 2019). In this presentation I will explore the family narratives of a young South Asian adolescent living in New York, how she co-constructs her family identity, and the meanings she attaches to her stories in relation to her identity and her own life.


Bamberg, M., De Fina, A., & Schiffrin, D. (2011). Discourse and identity construction. In S. J. Schwartz, K. Luyckx, & V. L. Vignoles (Eds.), Handbook of identity theory and research (pp. 177-199). New York, NY, US: Springer Science + Business Media.

Bohanek, J. G., Fivush, R., Zaman, W., Lepore, C. E., Merchant, S., & Duke, M. P. (2009). Narrative Interaction in Family Dinnertime Conversations. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly (Wayne State University. Press)55(4), 488–515.

Fivush, R., Bohanek, J. G., & Duke, M. (2008). The intergenerational self: Subjective perspective and family history. Self Continuity: Individual and Collective Perspectives, 131-143.

Fivush, R., Duke, M., Bohanek J.G. (2010). “Do you know…” The power of family history in adolescent identity and well being. Journal of Family Life. Retrieved from

Frosh, S., Phoenix, A., and Pattman, R. (2002). Young masculinities: understanding boys in contemporary society. UK: Palgrave.

Merrill, N., Srinivas, E. & Fivush, R. (2017). Personal and intergenerational narratives of transgression and pride in emerging adulthood: Links to gender and Well-Being. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 31(2), 119-127.

Turunen, T.A., Dockett, S. & Perry, B. (2015). Researching memories about starting school: autobiographical narratives as a methodological approach.  European Early Childhood Education Research journal. 23(5), 635-644.

Amneris Puscasu is a violinist and a teacher by profession, whose volunteer work also involved managing a family history community centre in New York.  As a volunteer, she has worked with young people and adults collecting oral histories and teaching classes in genealogical research. Through her volunteer work she developed an interest in narratives as research and pedagogical tools which she made the central research interest of her PhD study at IOE. Amneris has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Rutgers University in USA, and currently is a third year PhD candidate at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, UCL. 

For further details, please contact Corinne Squire at or Carolina Guttierez Munoz, Thomas Coram Research Unit graduate partner, . Details are also on the CNR blog
and the CNR website

February CNR-TCRU graduate seminar


CNR-TCRU Postgraduate Narrative Research Seminars, 2018-2019

Organised by the Centre for Narrative Research (CNR), University of East London

and the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU), UCL Institute of Education

Mamabuelas’: Stories of grandmothers bringing up grandchildren in Chile

Carolina Gutierrez, Institute of Education, University College London

Tuesday 12th February 2019, 5 – 6.30pm

Library, Thomas Coram Research Unit, 27 – 28 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA

All welcome, particularly graduate students.

Official data show that kin carers represent the highest percentage of foster carers in Chile, with grandparents being the most common caregivers within this group. However, very little is known about kinship care in Chile. Research on this topic has been mainly conducted in Western countries; only a few studies have focused on less wealthy nations, despite the importance of considering socio-cultural differences between countries to inform practice and improve care for children. Indeed, when literature about out-of-home care is explored, the vast majority of research is about countries such as the US, the UK and Australia, where currently kinship care is being increasingly used as the primary form of out-of-home care. One of the few studies on foster care carried out in Chile was a quantitative study that included kinship carers. The main findings are similar to those of research in Western countries; they suggest that children who are placed with extended family are mainly placed with caregivers who are women, a high percentage of whom are grandparents of the child. This research included only families in formal arrangements since, to date, there is no research on informal kinship families in Chile. Moreover, specific research focusing on the feelings of grandparents and the meanings they give to their parenting role is still insufficient; and research on children’s perspectives of kinship care is scarce. Gutierrez’s PhD aims to explore the experiences of grandparents who look after their grandchildren and those of their live-in grandchildren. More specifically, it intends to study: the conditions under which grandparents take on the care of their grandchildren; what it means to care or be cared for in the context of grandparent care; the family practices of grandparent-headed families; and the skills or competencies that grandparents and grandchildren employ in their daily lives to take care of each other. To achieve this, qualitative in-depth interviews were carried out with grandparents and their grandchildren in two Chilean cities. The sample included 18 families with children in formal or informal care, aged 7 to 15 years. At the moment, the research is at the stage of data analysis, and in this seminar, Gutierrez will be presenting the cases of three grandmothers, reflecting on the pathways they have followed to become carers and the meanings they attach to being a ‘mamabuela’ (a hybrid word combining the Spanish terms mamá: mother and abuela: grandmother). 

Carolina Gutierrez is a Chilean psychologist. She has worked for Chilean child services as a counsellor in a centre helping children victims of sexual abuse and their families. She has also worked as a researcher assistant at the University of Chile on projects related to the process of healing from child sexual abuse. She has a MA degree in Child Studies from King´s College London, and currently is a third year PhD student at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, UCL. 

For further details, please contact Corinne Squire at or Carolina Guttierez Munoz, Thomas Coram Research Unit graduate partner, . Details are also on the CNR blog and the CNR website

Call For Papers

To Think is To Experiment

Postgraduate Research Conference at the Centre for Narrative Research

2nd May 2019, 10 am – 4 pm, University of East London, University Square, Stratford

The Centre for Narrative Research (CNR) will organise To Think is to Experiment, the annual Postgraduate Research Conference on the 2nd May 2019. The event has been a space of in-depth conversations on various aspects of narrative-based research and postgraduate research experiences since 2003.

This year, we invite papers focusing on the analysis of narratives, discussing and reflecting on the analytical decisions and experiences of researchers, including the ethical ones. We are interested in both broader qualitative approaches to analysing narratives and specific narrative models of analysis.

This is a call for papers for all postgraduate researchers who work with narratives. Participants can contribute with a paper (15-20 minutes long) or a poster. Please send an abstract (150-200 words) to Cigdem Esin, by 4th March 2019. Applicants will hear back from us by 9th March 2019.

The previous programmes and abstracts of To Think is To Experiment can be viewed on this link

We look forward to meeting many researchers in May!

Amor Narratio: A Symposium on Cathy K Riessman’s narrative scholarship

Catherine-Kohler Riessman has just turned eighty, unbelievable and yet true! ‘There are many ways I could narrate my career. I have traveled a crooked road to finally achieve a comfortable place in narrative studies’ she modestly wrote in a career interview piece, published in 2014. What she calls ‘a comfortable place in narrative studies’ should actually be rewritten as a major influence in narrative research in the human sciences on a variety of levels: disciplinary, theoretical, methodological, epistemological, geographical and last but not least personal. More importantly Riessman’s work has opened up paths leading to what we want to call the ‘amor narratio’, an intellectual love for and deep engagement with the rich multiplicities of narrative research. In celebrating her life, career and narrative scholarship, we are organizing a symposium in London on May 29, 2019. This is a call for short papers on any aspect of Riessman’s work, particularly in the way it has influenced specific analytical approaches, methodological moves and epistemological perspectives in narrative research in the human sciences.

Please send a short abstract of no more than 200 words to Ruth Ballardie:, by February 28, 2019.

We look forward to seeing you in London, in May!

Organizing committee:

Centre for Narrative Research and Feminist Research Group, University of East London

Centre for Work and Employment, The University of Greenwich

Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education