MAP Event: Rebecca Chan

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Location: 107 Malloy

"What's wrong with telling someone else's story?

Map Event 4

 

Recent works in fiction and non-fiction have sparked controversy over when, if ever, it is appropriate for an author to tell a story about a group (or person of a group) to which the author does not belong. For instance, white writers draw criticism for creating works of fiction involving protagonists of color. Even in the domain of non-fiction, Reza Aslan is criticized for being a non-Christian biographer of Christ.

In this talk, I explore whether it is permissible to tell someone else’s story. I suggest that an analogy between telling another’s story and misconduct in research provides strong considerations against the practice. Telling someone else’s story requires robust ‘what it’s like’ knowledge, and there is a strong presumption that authors either lack or illegitimately possess this knowledge. Curiously, this consideration counts more strongly against the practice in fictional rather than non-fictional contexts.