The Learner’s Journey
June 2019 Facilitating Beyond Storytelling Story Camp in Lingenau in Austria
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Why do we need more storylistening & storytelling for social justice? – Interview with Kelli McLoud-Shingen

Interview with Kelli McLoud-Shingen on Storylistening and Storytelling for Social Justice

Many cordial thanks to Brett Parry for recording our interview and to Melina Garibyan for hands-on hints on how to edit the movie. As it is my first trial, it is far from being perfect and I am thankful for any comments and improvement ideas.

When I met Kelli McLoud-Shingen in Leuven in Belgium May this year I was thrilled to hear that she would like to share her approach on storytelling and storylistening in an interview. And so in our short conversation on the importance of sharing stories Kelli emphasized the most important aspects of working with narratives in the intercultural context, explained the shift from diversity to inclusion using the model by Lee Anne Bell “Storytelling for Social Justice” and, last but not least, shared her touching insight on what it means to be seen and perceived in the wholeness of humanity. 

Her approach regarding sharing stories on racism and contemporary challenges of deeply divided societies can be best explained with the warmhearted Zulu greeting “Sawubona” that literally means, “I see you, you are important to me ”. Sawubona addresses the importance of directing our attention to another person with their whole cultural, historical and personal background and reminds us to be aware of other People’s needs and the importance of their voice. And indeed, we can emphasize the importance of the presence of another person by attentive listening to their stories, without commenting, without “listening in order to immediately react”,  without judging. 

What enables us such reflective and critical conversations is examining different stories. In order to invite such conversations, Kelli applies the model by Lee Anne Bell called “Storytelling for social justice”.

Lee Anne Bell gathered a team of educators and artists and asked them to come up with ideas on how arts could be used to teach and learn about race and racism. The team decided that story would be the best possible form to encourage deep conversations. Kelli has applied this model many times in the context of race and racism and in our interview she sheds light on the current situation in the intercultural field and the shift from diversity to inclusion, based on the different forms of storytelling. 

Central to the Storytelling approach addressed by Lee Ann Bell is the awareness that not all stories are valued equally. By exploring the social and cultural stories we are able to challenge the status quo by analyzing them through the lenses of four story types:

  1. Stock Stories– these are the dominant narratives that uphold the status quo by ignoring or minimizing the ongoing movements. In the discourse on race they reproduce racism and white advantage
  2. Concealed stories– these are the stories from the margins. They are often repressed or “forgotten” on purpose because they contradict stock stories. They can be suppressed because they recount traumatic experiences.
  3. Resistance stories– these are the stories that challenge the status quo by highlighting ways people defy the stock stories.
  4. Emerging / transforming stories are new stories we construct based on awareness of the other three types. These stories address the impact of historical and cultural movements of the present time and build upon concealed and resistance stories. 

As Kelli says, “The model by Ann Bell shows us why we need to unpack the stories and to listen to them, so that the pendulum swings that move so extremely far to the right or to the left do not continue to happen.”

Further reading: Bell, Lee Anne (2010). Storytelling for Social Justice: Connecting Narrative and the Arts in Antiracist Teaching

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