Culture and its uses as testimony

Culture and its uses as testimony examines the role of culture in societies that are seeking to come to terms with traumatic pasts.

Bocca della Verita

In such societies culture is one medium through which individuals and groups present their experiences to a broad public as a form of testimony. We understand cultural forms of testimony to include autobiographical accounts, novels, diaries, letters, memoirs, films, theatre, works of art, and documentaries. The network explores how cultural testimony can enrich public debate about past and present injustice, but it also explores how it is instrumentalised for narrow political purposes. The network establishes why victims, perpetrators and memory activists turn to first person forms of expression as they strive for justice and reconciliation.

The network brings together researchers from the fields of history, political science and international relations, law, sociology, education and those working on culture, literature, film and museums in a variety of national and transnational contexts. The network thus provides opportunities for scholars with different understandings of testimony to collaborate and to produce new insights into how culture functions as testimony as societies attempt to come to terms with their past. Researchers also work alongside practitioners who are core members of the network.

Project team

External resources


The network is structured around three workshops, two half-day schools’ workshops, and a high-profile international conference:

  • Workshop 1: The range and function of testimony in cultural forms (10 November 2016, University of Birmingham). Download the report
  • Workshop 2: Methodological approaches to the use of cultural forms of testimony in understanding the past (8 March 2017, National Holocaust Centre and Museum). Download the report
  • Workshop 3: The politics of culture as testimony (22 May 2017, University of Nottingham). Download the report
  • Conference: ‘Culture and its Uses as Testimony: Interdisciplinary Approaches’ (proposed for Spring 2017, University of Birmingham)

Key publications will include teaching materials, peer-reviewed journal articles, and an interdisciplinary handbook on Culture and its Uses as Testimony.

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