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We Shall Bear Witness
Life Narratives and Human Rights
Edited by Meg Jensen and Margaretta Jolly
Foreword by Mary Robinson

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

“Of use and appeal to a broad range of readers wherever they might be situated: the prison, the field, the court, the stage or gallery, or even the classroom. No other volume does this kind of work.”
—Laura E. Lyons, University of Hawai‘i

Personal testimonies are the life force of human rights work, and rights claims have brought profound power to the practice of life writing. This volume explores the connections and conversations between human rights and life writing through a dazzling, international collection of essays by survivor-writers, scholars, and human rights advocates.

In We Shall Bear Witness, editors Meg Jensen and Margaretta Jolly assemble moving personal accounts from those who have endured persecution, imprisonment, and torture; meditations on experiences of injustice and protest by creative writers and filmmakers; and innovative research on ways that digital media, commodification, and geopolitics are shaping what is possible to hear and say. The book’s primary sections—testimony, recognition, representation, and justice—evoke the key stages in turning experience into a human rights life story and attend to such diverse and varied arts as autobiography, documentary film, report, oral history, blog, and verbatim theater. The result is a groundbreaking book that sensitively examines how life and rights narratives have become so powerfully entwined. Also included is an innovative guide to teaching human rights and life narrative in the classroom.


Meg JensenMargaretta Jolly

Meg Jensen (left) is the director of the Centre for Life Narratives at Kingston University and the author of The Open Book: Creative Misreading in the Works of Selected Modern Writers. Margaretta Jolly (right) is the director of the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research at the University of Sussex. She is the author of In Love and Struggle: Letters in Contemporary Feminism, winner of the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association UK Book Prize.



“The contributors illustrate well the complexity of analyzing specific situations and defining strategies for action, as well as the relevance of context, history, and politics.”
—Susana Kaiser, University of San Francisco



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Into New Territory

August 2014
LC: 2013043104 JC
332 pp.   6 x 9
7 b/w illustrations  

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Paper $29.95 a
ISBN 978-0-299-30014-2
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