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Transforming Stories, Driving Change (TSDC)

As educators, social service providers, and social planners work to develop new models of research and learning that will prepare Canadians to thrive in a rapidly evolving society, we are seeing more frequent public presentation of stories of lived experience by people who are socially marginalized. The value of the knowledge expressed in these stories is undeniable, but as the public telling of personal stories proliferates, questions are being raised about the efficacy and the ethics of these storytelling events. Public moments of personal storytelling are typically intended to make complex issues both more comprehensible and more emotionally engaging, to elicit empathy and spur social change. Yet too often, when socially marginalized people are asked to tell stories of their lived experience in public forums, these individuals are not viewed as contributors to public debate but as illustrations of social problems. This disconnect between intention and effect, which risks reinforcing rather than challenging social marginalization, provides the impetus for our project, Transforming Stories, Driving Change (TSDC).

To expose mechanisms of social marginalization that prevent some people from being understood as agents of change, the TSDC team will focus on performance as a research strategy, recognizing that because exclusion and inclusion are themselves performative acts, they are particularly amenable to the embodied thinking of counter-performance.

Over the course of three years (2017-2020), the Transforming Stories, Driving Change project will collaborate with our community partners in order to:

  • Use future-oriented performance creation techniques to engage more and different kinds of people in public talk about visions for their communities, and build solidarity between constituencies
  • Focus attention on norms of public communication that render some stories and speakers legitimate and comprehensible and others not
  • Identify ways to make these unstated norms visible and available for public discussion and contestation

Transforming Stories, Driving Change is generously funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Council Partnership Development Grant.

For frequent updates, please follow our project blog