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Oct 4 | The Uses of Narrative in Organizing for Social Justice

  • 420 Pupin Hall 538 West 120th Street New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)
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When: Thursday, October 4, 2018, 6:10-7:30 pm

Where:  Pupin Hall, Room 420

Mobilizing stories to create social change is one way that oral histories can be used to shape the future. This talk will focus on the uses of narrative in social justice campaigns, with particular emphasis on domestic worker organizing in New York City. It will explore the use of legal testimonies, media stories, and movement stories in the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights campaign. While stories told to the media and at the legislature helped to bring migrant domestic workers a sense of visibility and recognition in broader society, I argue that these heavily curated narratives drew on longstanding tropes of bad masters, individual victims, and the home as a site of care, that have longer genealogies in slavery and colonialism. In the aftermath of the campaign, many domestic workers rejected this curated storytelling and sought to tell more critical, complex and contextualized stories about their transnational lives. I will look at how these stories, often more in-depth and creative in format, are vital to the ongoing struggles of domestic workers for social justice. 

Sujatha Fernandes is a Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Sydney. Previously she was a Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York. Her work focuses on the cultural politics of global labor and social movements. She is the author of three academic books, Cuba Represent! Cuban Arts, State Power, and the Making of New Revolutionary Cultures (2006), Who Can Stop the Drums? Urban Social Movements in Chávez’s Venezuela (2010), and her latest book Curated Stories: The Uses and Misuses of Storytelling (2017). She has also written a memoir of global hip hop, entitled Close to the Edge: In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation, (2010) and a children’s book, Don’t Throw My Teeth on the Roof (2013). Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Nation, and American Prospect, among other places.

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