Mediated Testimony Symposium


Testimony to lived experience plays a vital role in shaping the public conversation on many issues. This symposium will bring together leading scholars of life writing to discuss the role of mediation in the production, circulation and uses of testimony in contemporary debates regarding the treatment of people seeking asylum from war and those impacted by natural disasters. The symposium is jointly organised by the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON), the Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies and the Comparative Literature seminar.

Questions considered in the symposium will include: how can we account for the role of different media forms (visual art, photographic journalism, print and online journalism, video) in the production of testimonial networks? To what extent must scholarship on testimony engage with debates regarding media, mediation and audiences in cognate fields? Is there evidence that specific media forms enhance the effects of testimony? 


13:00-13:15 Welcome

13:15-14:15 Leigh Gilmore (Wellesley College): Testimony and Form: Questions about literature, testimony, and agency

14:15-14:30 Break

14:30-16:00 Gillian Whitlock (University of Queensland) and Rosanne Kennedy (Australian National University): Shards of Testimony: Digital Witnessing and Refugee Lives in Detention

16:15-17:30 Panel discussion: what is the role of art and media in circulating testimony? Participants: Leigh Gilmore, Gillian Whitlock, Rosanne Kennedy, Susanne Knittel, Erin La Cour. Participating chair: Anna Poletti.


About the speakers

Professor Gillian Whitlock (FAHA), University of Queensland. Professor Whitlock's recent books include Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit (University of Chicago Press, 2008) and Postcolonial Life Narrative (Oxford University Press, 2014). She is currently working on the archive of asylum seeker letters that are held in the Fryer Library in Queensland.

Professor Leigh Gilmore, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Wellesley College. Professor Gilmore is the author of Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives (Columbia University Press 2017), The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony (2001), and Autobiographics: A Feminist Theory of Women’s Self-Representation (1994) (both with Cornell University Press).

Associate Professor Rosanne Kennedy, Australian National University. Professor Kennedy's recent work includes 'Moving Testimony: Human Rights, Palestinian Memory, and the Transnational Public Sphere' (in Transnational Memory: Circulation, Articulation, Scales; de Gruyter, 2014) and 'Memory, History and the Law: Testimony and Collective Memory in Holocaust and Stolen Generations Trials' (in Memory and History: Understanding Memory as Source and Subject; Routledge, 2013).


The symposium will be followed by a masterclass on mobilizing testimony, presented by Associate Professor Rosanne Kennedy on Tuesday 13 June, 13.30-15.30. This masterclass is offered with the support of The Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (OSL). The masterclass will contribute 1 EC to the RMA training program. Students can register for the masterclass by emailing dr. Anna Poletti:


Start date and time
End date and time
Room 2.02, Janskerkhof 15a, Utrecht
Entrance fee
Free of charge

Please register your interest in attending by emailing Dr Anna Poletti: