Call for papers

Narrative Matters 2023
Instrumental Narratives: Narrative Studies and the Storytelling Boom
Tampere University, 15–17 June 2023

Call for Papers ended on November 30, 2022!

The eleventh Narrative Matters conference is hosted by Tampere University (Finland) and co-organized by the Instrumental Narratives consortium project, SELMA: Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory, and Narrare: Centre for Interdisciplinary Narrative Studies. The conference positions narrative scholars in the midst of the storytelling boom. Everyone is urged to share their story today, from consumers to multinational corporations, from private citizens to nation states. Storytelling consultants are thriving in today’s storytelling economy, but where are narrative scholars? Do the professional analyzers and theorizers of narrative have a say in the current storytelling boom? How to engage in a societal dialogue and debate as a narrative scholar?


The conference will provide a platform for scholars to both seek new applications that might appeal to diverse audiences and to critically reflect on the instrumentalization of narrative studies. Most narrative scholars agree on the rich affordances of storytelling: narrative is a compact and intuitive form for sharing detailed, personal experiences as well as collective, community-forming ideas and outlooks. Thus narrative studies approaches lend generous support to the instrumentalization and commercialization of narrative form in business, politics, media, and personal development. Yet narrative may just as well be put to uses that are dubious if not dangerous. The widespread, uncritical use of narratives of personal experience in journalism and social media may have unintended and unanticipated consequences. Experientiality may come at the cost of informativeness. Furthermore, while narratives are ideally suited to conveying the complexity of human experience, the complexity of large social interactions or material processes, such as climate change, easily exceeds the capacity of storytelling. Now that the benefits of storytelling have caught the public imagination and are recognized in various professional practices, narrative scholarship is in a good position to disseminate critical practices for the analysis of the forms and contexts of storytelling as well.


We should also look into future narrative possibilities. The 21st century will no doubt be the era of social media and shared personal narratives, and therefore we should look for productive ways of connecting the personal with the political. How, for example, to bridge the gap between individual particularity and supra-individual concerns at the limits of narrative, such as the climate crisis and global inequality? How to conceptualize and control the afterlife of narratives determined by digital forms of narrative agency? Will new forms of narrative speculation direct our actions as citizens, consumers, and collectives? Which roles will be allotted to specific artistic, digital, and quotidian genres of storytelling? Are these new narrative genres and practices changing the ways people share their experience and use stories in the everyday? Are new affordances for narrative meaning making evolving?


We invite narrative scholars across disciplines to address the following (and related) issues:


  • storytelling boom and its social relevance
  • novel ways of storytelling today
  • emergent methods, ideas, and issues in narrative studies
  • sociological analysis of curated storytelling
  • the study of storytelling rights and privileges; re-thinking of empathy
  • narrative and post-truth
  • narrative consultancy business; storytelling self-help and manuals
  • story-critical reading in narrative studies; story-critical tools for audiences
  • popularizing narrative theory and practices
  • social life of narratives vs. analysis of individual texts
  • narrative and action: political narratives, positioning and counter-narratives
  • professional narratives and narratives of professions refigured
  • the limits and affordances of narrative in making sense of illness and health
  • the limits and affordances of narrative in addressing the environmental crisis
  • uses and risks of viral storytelling and social media sharing
  • discourse on well-being and cognitive benefits of literature
  • the potential of fiction in analysing and resisting the narrative boom

Narrative Matters 2023 is an on-site conference with no hybrid sessions and no recording of presentations. We will however include two online sessions in the programme, one early in the morning and another late in the evening (Helsinki time). The conference fee for online participants, who will only have access to these two online sessions, will pay a reduced conference fee of EUR 150 / 100 (students).

Please send your paper and panel proposals by November 30, 2022! The abstract for an individual paper should be 250-300 words. A panel proposal (in the case of a traditional research panel, 3-4 speakers) should be approx. 600 words, including a brief general description + short abstracts of each paper. In addition to the proposal text, please include a 100 word biographical statement for every speaker. If you only wish to present in either of the online sessions, please indicate this in your proposal.

CFP closed on November 30, 2022.