Life history and life writing research uses life story - whether in the form of oral history, personal narrative, autobiography or biography - as a primary source for the study of history and culture.

Life history and life writing research uses life story - whether in the form of oral history, personal narrative, autobiography or biography - as a primary source for the study of history and culture. Life stories capture the relation between the individual and society, the local and the national, the past and present and the public and private experience. Research involves grappling with theories of memory, relationship and self representation, and with debates about literacy and orality. Many disciplines contribute to the field, including history, sociology, anthropology, literary philosophy, cultural studies and psychology. Life history and life writing researchers present their work in many forms. As well as academic publications, we contribute to radio and television documentaries, auto/biographical drama, reminiscence work, digital and video presentations and exhibitions. Life history and life writing research is, of necessity, concerned with ethics and power relationships, and with the potential for advocacy and empowerment.

When does biography begin?
Led by Simone von Buren, Bern Univ. of the Arts
  Tue 11 June 2019, University of Sussex 

2-6pm, Fulton Building

Free. Disabled access.

How can we draw, shape, dramatize, and write about the lives of others? What events in a subject’s life do biographies tend to privilege? And when does biography begin?

When does biography begin (Copyright Benno Seidel)Mats Staub '21 - Memories of Growing Up'. Photo: © Benno Seidel

This workshop started with an exploration of the innovative dramaturgical approaches in the biographical installations of Swiss artist Mats Staub. Staub asked participants to narrate their lives starting from a particular place: with the year they turned 21, the people they were in love with, their experiences of birth and death. We then shared our own experiences in the field through guided discussion and exercises. This included choosing your subject, sources, form and perspective, ethical dilemmas, the commodification of life writing and the uses of critical theory.

Proudly featuring Visiting Researcher Simone von Buren from Bern University of the Arts. Sussex University Dr Hope Wolf and Prof Margaretta Jolly will offer a response.

The workshop was followed by drinks and nibbles.



Our next free event:

War from the inside: 

Oral Histories from the BBC

Saturday, 19 October 2019
The Keep Archives, Woolards Wary, Brighton, BN1 9BP

Free, all welcome, but booking is essential
Disabled access
To book, please register here: 

Olive Shapley (producer) with Mrs Emerson in the colliery village of Craghead, County Durham BBC North region 01/01/1939 © BBCOlive Shapley (producer) with Mrs Emerson, 01/01/1939 © BBC

 Join us to explore rare recordings from the BBC's vaults and the stories they tell us about how our national broadcaster has reported war and helped us live through it. Light lunch and refreshments provided.




Latest events

No items are currently available.

View all events

Mailing list

If you would like to join the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research mailing list and receive regular updates about events, conferences and publication opportunities in the field of life history, life writing and oral history, please email:


RT @TheKeepArchives: Readers! Writers! We're thrilled to be welcoming author Lynne Truss to discuss her comic crime novels & their……

RT @ConnHistofBBC: Join us at a free event on 19 October: War from the Inside. See clips from the BBC’s archive & hear from the legend……

RT @QSBooks: Love history? Want to get involved in an exciting #Brighton project? We're looking for volunteers for our current p……

RT @QSBooks: One of our latest publications - #Brighton’s Alternative Spaces – people, place, culture covers the diversity of li……

War from the inside: Oral histories from the BBC. Join us to explore rare recordings from the BBC’s vaults and the……

Visit CLHLWR on Twitter