"Re-member”- Self-narrative, memory and identity

April 10, 2015 - April 11, 2015
Université de Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne


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Re-member1”- Self-narrative, memory and identity

April 10-11, 2015

University Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne and University Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

(Paris, France)

"Nothing remains, no one is left to tell us which one of us was threatening other children at pre-school, under Bob's impressed eyes: our grandfather never missed recess from his seventh floor window. It made him laugh so much. The sight of one of "the girls" twirling her scooter above her head became legendary, and I do not know if it is you or me: I remember precisely, yes, but I do not remember who. My child memory is ours."

We usually think that our memory stores our memories as they are, that these memories are ours and constitute our personal identity. Yet we constantly build and rebuild our memories, when we tell our story and when we hear it told by others.

The role of stories in the construction of the self has been highlighted by several disciplines, which offer various assumptions and perspectives on this issue. Some neuropsychological models of memory, for example, claim that episodic memory is less a faculty of storage than a faculty of reconstruction, which allows us to develop and constantly recreate the story of our life (Schacter and Addis 2007; Desgranges and Eustache 2012). Moral perspectives on the self have described the link between narrativity and shared narrative space: the narrative of my memories is embedded in collective narratives and constituted by others' (MacIntyre 1981). Political approaches of personal identity, such as feminist, gender and postcolonial studies, highlight the constructed nature of identity, and help us analyze how the self is constructed in social interpellations and performative speech acts (Butler, 1990, 2005), how we tell our own stories in collective groups, and how we build collective and political identities (Dorlin 2008). Some historical, genealogical or sociological perspectives highlight the historical construction of subjectivities, and the role of socio-historical, cultural and political structures in the development of a self-narrative (Foucault 1976), of memory (Halbwachs 1925) and of identity (Eribon 2009). 
It seems urgent to create a dialogue among these different disciplines to analyze the role of narrative in the construction of the self, the various forms of self-narrative we can produce and what determines them. The aim of this conference is to understand which processes build our identities and how we, individually and collectively, can be authors of ourselves and of our stories. The primary goal is to produce multidisciplinary reflections on the issue of the self, which could give us collective and individual agency on our identities. 
The relationship between narrative and identity, between the story and the self, is precisely the subject of the international conference "Re-member2" – Self-narrative, memory and identity, which aims to enable a dialogue between different approaches and disciplines, in order to analyze the self and personal identity, not as a notion restricted to administrative data, but as something constructed and constantly recreated in individual and collective narratives. Which dynamics - and within which historical, political, and relational contexts - shape the self and the self-narrative (creating the narrative of your own life-story, reconstructing your memories, speaking with others…).

The conference will be organized around three main themes: 

1. Self-narrative and memory. 
The first area of research is to discuss current sciences of memory, by focusing on the relationships between the ability to tell and the ability to remember, between autobiographical memory and self-narrativity. 
(a) How does personal memory contribute to the construction of the self-narrative? 
(b) How does our self-narrative rebuild our memories? 
(c) What is the role of self-narrative in "pathologies" of memory such as Alzheimer's disease: can it be a therapeutic strategy? 
(d) How to distinguish the "normal" reconstruction of episodic memories from confabulation? Is the distinction legitimate? 
(e) How can the concept of self-narrative shed light on the relationship between the definition of pathology and the social and normative conceptions of the subject? 

2. Self-narrative and social interpellation.
The second area of research is to analyze the socio-political and historical context of the self-narrative construction.
(a) What are the political settings for self-definition and self-identification? How is social identity assigned to us, through which processes, and according to which norms? 
(b) What are the forms of individual and collective resistance to this assigned identity? 
(c) What is the relationship between the self-narrative and collective narratives? That is to say, how are personal stories built in collective narratives, and what links personal identity and community, collective and political identities? 
(d) Is it possible to elaborate a genealogy of the concept of the “self”, by analyzing, for example, the socio-historical frames of production of subjectivities, as well as the various historical and cultural shapes of self-narrative? 

3. Self-narrative and fiction.
The third area focuses on the prospects found in artistic and literary forms (mainly autobiography, auto-fiction and science-fiction) regarding the construction of the self in narratives. 
(a) What kind of self-narrative is built in autobiographies and auto-fictions? 
(b) What perspective can those works provide on the relationship between fiction and authenticity?

(c) How does science fiction (in literature, films, TV shows, or in philosophical thought experiments) question the concept of the self through specific types of characters, whose identity can be problematic (such as clones, robots, cyborgs)?


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Loraine Gérardin-Laverge, (PhD in Philosophy under the supervision of Denis Forest, University Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Ireph)

Mona Gérardin-Laverge (PhD in Philosophy under the supervision of Sandra Laugier, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, PhiCo, axe ExeCO)

Scientific Committee

Francis Eustache, CHU Caen, Unity INSERM 1077

Denis Forest, University Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

Sophie Guérard de Latour, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Sandra Laugier, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Jean-Michel Salanskis, University Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

Invited speakers

Didier Eribon, University of Amiens

Stanley Klein, University of California Santa Barbara

Marie-Hélène Lafon

Kim-Sang Ong Van Cung, University Bordeaux Montaigne

1 Donna Haraway 2 Donna Haraway

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