The power of storytelling: care survivors and reparative justice

How can the powerless make their voices heard?

On Monday 20 March, as part of the Cambridge Festival, Dr Véronique Mottier examined how the powerless can make their voices heard.

Drawing on research interviews with care survivor activists in several countries, this talk at the Intellectual Forum explored the ways official apologies were experienced by the victims to whom they were addressed. It also asked what the personal cost of storytelling is, and whether reparative justice can ever be fully achieved.

Véronique discussed recent successful campaigns for reparative justice in countries such as Switzerland and Australia by care survivors, who are amongst the most vulnerable groups in Western society, and yet generally invisible.

She demonstrated how public storytelling of historic experiences of abuse in care institutions has helped to trigger political change, including official state apologies which, in recent decades, have come to be seen as a prerequisite for democracies coming to terms with painful aspects of the national past.

However, she argued, the uttering of an official apology is not always the endpoint of a process of reparative justice – in some cases, it is arguably only its beginning.

About the speaker:

Dr. Véronique Mottier is a Fellow and Director of Studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge, and Professor in Sociology at the University of Lausanne.

Her research and teaching interests include social and political theory; gender, sexuality, and the state; modernity, racial classifications, and national identity; eugenics, coerced sterilisation policies, and child removal programs in the Western world; interpretative research methods; and discourse and narrative analysis.

A recording of the talk is available on our College YouTube channel.