Life Narrative Research Group (LNR) - Projects
LNR actively seek to supervise research students in all areas of life narrative production and scholarship and provide a base for research projects conducted by existing Kingston staff, externally funded research fellows, visiting fellows and professors, Writers, Filmmakers, and Artists in residence.
Expressive writing workshops in Iraq
The cruelty of war stretches far beyond the battlefield. Many women who have suffered sexual violence in Iraq now find that the process of seeking justice through the legal system inflicts new trauma on them as they are forced to relive their experiences. But thanks to research at Kingston University, they are now able to tell their stories in ways that avoid further harm, and even help alleviate their suffering, through expressive life writing.
Expressive writing is a particular type of coping strategy often used for survivors of trauma, in which they write out their thoughts and feelings about a stressful or traumatic experience in various ways. Research with victims of traumatic experience in non-conflict settings and with combat veterans has demonstrated that the process of writing down these reflections helps survivors 'detach' from negative experiences by turning them into tangible, shareable stories, thus increasing their sense of well-being.
The Expressive Life Writing Project led by Kingston University's Dr Meg Jensen, in collaboration with Dr Siobhan Campbell at Open University, is working with a local human rights group, the INMAA, to offer bespoke expressive writing and telling opportunities to women victims of violence and trauma in Kirkuk Governorate. The project will also interrogate current best practice guidelines on the documentation and investigation of such rights violations and suggest adaptations to existing protocols for the interviewing process.
Life Narrative Training Handbook Research Project
In development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Beyond Borders Scotland
This research project will test the feasibility of employing a hybrid creative writing methodology informed by evidence-based narrative therapeutic approaches for interviewing female victims of sexual violence in conflict that will go beyond the aim of “do no harm” as set out in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Basic Standards of Best Practice on the Documentation of Sexual Violence as a Crime under International Law, (2014). It seeks to influence policy-makers to apply the new insights thereby gained in the process of interviewing victims of complex traumas, particularly those whose traumatic disorders have arisen as a result of ongoing social and political conflict.
The project aims to research and develop, via input from multiple stakeholders including the European Institute for Peace and the Beyond Borders’ “Women in Conflict” Fellows, a handbook of 10-15,000 words in length for human rights defenders that will outline the relationship between life narratives in all forms and traumatic symptomology drawing upon the most recent research from narrative studies, neuroscience, clinical psychology as well as creative life writing and storytelling therapies.
The handbook, which will be produced in both English and Arabic, will contain original creative life writing exercises and storytelling exercises informed by Dr Jensen’s work in life narrative and trauma studies, and by Dr Campbell’s research on post-conflict creative writing methodologies. It will be supported by the latest findings in the field of evidence-based narrative therapies including biographical narrative methodology, narrative exposure therapy, and testimony therapy. These exercises will be accompanied by guidelines for local human rights defenders enabling them to track the efficacy of these exercises in alleviating key symptoms of trauma in the women who choose to participate in this study.
The quantitative and qualitative forms of feedback gathered as a result of the implementation of actions in the handbook by the mobile human rights defenders project in Kirkuk will in turn inform the development of a virtual learning environment “toolkit” containing original research-based and “road-tested” teaching materials for effective, evidence-based therapeutic creative life narrative workshops for victims of trauma in post-conflict contexts. We further aim to present our findings to the FCO at the conclusion of this project, opening a dialogue will that seeks to influence policy in the matter of taking testimony from victims of trauma.
- International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict (PDF)
- The European Institute of Peace
- Beyond Borders - Scotland
You can contact LNR by using the details provided at the top of this page.
Military Research Network
Drawing on research by Professor Rachel Cusk, Dr. Meg Jensen and Professor Vesna Goldsworthy into the interface between testimony, trauma literature, autobiographical fiction and recovery from trauma and related disorders, the MWN created and sustains partnerships with organisations working with veteran soldiers, sailors and airmen and their families.
- Further information about the MWN project.
Contact LNRDr Meg Jensen
Life Narrative Research Group
Kingston upon Thames
Tel: +44 (0)20 8417 2282