Sujatha Fernandes will visit the US next month for several events to discuss her recent book Curated Stories: The Uses and Misuses of Storytelling. She will give a talk at the Our (Digital) Humanity conference at Lehigh University on April 21 and then travel to California for lectures at UC-Santa Cruz and UC-Riverside. This is her fourth book – which she describes below in an interview from 2016 – that continues her project of examining social justice movements through a cultural lens, combining theory with engaged ethnography, and she presents case studies to demonstrate how the act of storytelling has been hijacked by those seeking profit or political gain, with soundbites that placate more than politicize listeners:
In truth commissions, courtrooms, and legislatures, stories were abstracted from the goals of building mass movements that confronted power, and they were reoriented toward transaction and negotiation. The method of consciousness-raising was retooled as the sharing of personal stories in televised spectacles, and was divorced from the political. Stories were shorn of their nuance and complexity to become short texts that would fit in a report or could be easily recitable for the purposes of a legal hearing, daytime talk show, or civil litigation.
Fernandes, who is professor of political economy and sociology at the University of Sydney, also just recently wrote a piece for The Nation, published last month, which follows a group of children in a small town in Cuba who make a short film – Siete Y 50 – about a local factory that was almost closed down, but saved thanks to their efforts.