Last week I attended an exciting Summer School at Durham University for the Centre for Sex, Gender and Sexualities Centre.
Here is the abstract of the lecture I gave. More details can be found at Telling Sexual Stories Twenty Years On: Narrative Power and Narrative
In this lecture I will briefly revisit my study Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change and Social Worlds (TSS), published some twenty years ago. I ask how it came to be written and consider what some of the original contributions the book might have made, against a background of continuing change and transformation. I ask how the world has moved on in many ways since; and ‘upgrade’ some of the arguments and examples of the book. I will look especially at: a model of story telling, a typology of story genres, ‘the story of a story’, and the significance of change and the development of World Narratives, Digital Narratives and the widening and deepening of inequalities.
Looking ahead, I see a central challenge for both narrative theory and critical sexualities studies in the future to be the development of a better understanding of Narrative Power, which can be studied empirically, analytically and normatively. Power was a key idea in TSS but now needs bridging into a Politics of Narrative Empathy, a Politics of Narrative Inequalities, a Politics of Narrative States and a Politics of Narrative Hope. Distinguishing between micro narratives and macro narratives, I suggest we need to think in the future of the long-term political strategies and tactics for this narrative politics.
For sexualities scholars, this might mean developing A Politics of Critical Sexualities Narratives – using our work to challenge narrative hegemonies (counter narratives etc) as well as creating new visions of grounded Narrative Hope. Distinguishing positive normativity from negative normativity, I tentatively look at what ‘good sex’ and ‘bad sex’ might mean; and argue for research stories of Intimate Citizenship, Cosmopolitan Sexualities and Inclusive Sexualities. Humanist narratives of grounded utopian hope must create bridges across the workings of local and state power to enable the flourishing of better human sexual worlds. Indeed, I close by suggesting that part of our future debate must include thinking about the values of what it means to be human and what it means for humans to flourish in a better world. I will close with a very tentative check-list of possibilities, which we can at least start to ponder.