Statement against redundancies and restructuring of Centre for Narrative Research
We write this open letter as a worldwide network of scientists, researchers and scholars to express, in the strongest terms, our concern about the threat of redundancy for Professor Molly Andrews and Professor Corinne Squire and the threatened closure of the Centre for Narrative Research as a part of the University of East London’s re-structuring programme.
CNR, which was established in 1999, has over the last twenty years become a vital beacon for advances in narrative research. It is an innovator in qualitative research methods and collaborates with scholars across the world. It provides training, events, journal editorship and an on-going seminar series. Together these play a key role in the development of story-based multi-media methods. Many of the scholars signed below were once students or researchers at CNR who have since their training with CNR developed their narrative approaches within institutions across the world. Others have connections with Molly Andrews, Corinne Squire and CNR through teaching, research and publishing, and shared connections.
CNR was one of the first centres to consolidate our understanding of the extent to which human beings are storytellers, and indeed the power of persuasive narratives. It has gone on to work incisively with refugee narratives, the collective remembering of the Holocaust as well as key events such as the fall of the Berlin wall. It is this combination of traction informed by sustained scholarship that is part of the CNR story. At a time when powerful narratives can seek to overturn legitimate democratic elections and create lasting political legacies, it is vital to the scientific community, the health of democracy and for wider society that established centres of excellence such as CNR remain open and supported. Equally, the work being conducted within CNR is a powerful antidote to forces that seek to de-humanise ordinary people and develop the related technocratic management information methods.
Molly Andrews and Corinne Squire pioneered a feminist co-leadership approach to the running of CNR which had integrated into its pedagogy the central role played by critical independent reflexive scholarship by students. At the turn of the 21st century, they moved away from single discipline approaches in favour of a genuinely multi-disciplinary approach and sought to develop a curriculum which met the needs of the diversity of their students. Moreover, they were not content to operate at the margins and combined this pedagogy with the ability to attract major grants.
We support the #SaveUEL campaign and we ask that the re-structuring is reconsidered. We are concerned that the executive team at UEL does not fully appreciate the cross-disciplinary international significance of CNR and its two lead Professors within the scientific community.
The EU has established a joint co-ordinated action against disinformation and the spread of false news. Together, we the undersigned believe the decision to disband the very UK centre which could play a strong role shows a worrying lack of vision. To lose these two senior scholars at a time when governance is discursive and narrative is ascendant, when polities and communities worldwide are struggling with the absence of shared facts, makes little sense. To close the centre which has the longest track record in studying narratives could offer further evidence to the international community of the United Kingdom’s turn towards technocratic research and isolationism. Now is the time for UK science and innovation to build a clear narrative and CNR is vital to the advancement of internationalised cross-disciplinary advancement of narrative research.
This open letter is drafted by Kesi Mahendran (Public Dialogue Psychology Collaboratory) with the support of the Culture and Social Psychology Research Group (CuSP) within the Open University.