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Rue du Méridien 10, 1210 Bruxelles


Silence is (not) an option: Re-Thinking Oral History post-MeToo – symposium

This symposium readdresses the complexities of silences in oral history, especially in relation to intimate research subjects. This topic has received new impetus in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which has led a growing number of survivors to publicly speak out against perpetuators of sexual violence. Our speakers focus upon the strategies of historical actors who prefer to leave their past unspoken, as well as on the potentially unexpected consequences of breaking silences. We will also reflect on the significance of, and difficulties in, interpreting silences or on the differences between what is said on and off the record.

The symposium will take place at “Amazone”, rue du Méridien 10 Middaglijnstraat – 1210 Brussels



Thursday November 17

9h30 – 10h : Registration and coffee

10h-10h30 : Introduction by Tinne Claes (KU Leuven), Juliette Masquelier (Université libre de Bruxelles), Marjolein Van Bavel (UAntwerpen)

10h30-12h : Keynote by Emily Bridger (University of Exeter) : Sexual violence and the (un)sayable in South African History

12h-13h : Lunch

13h-14h45 : Panel 1 – Insider / Outsider perspectives on subalterns’ silences . Chair: Magaly Rodriguez Garcia (KU Leuven)

  • Chiara Candaele (UAntwerpen / State Archives) – Activating the past : Integrating subaltern voices in ‘official’ inquiries on forced child separations
  • Jiri Moonen (UAntwerpen) – “Mimic Diaspora”: Identity and the idea of the ‘other’ among South Korean adopted migrants in Flanders (1968-2021)

14h15-14h30 : Coffee break

14h30-15h45 : Panel 2 – Re-assessing #MeToo. Chair: Marjolein Van Bavel (UAntwerpen)

  • Sabine Elisabeth Aretz (KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt) : What’s left unsaid and #MeToo: Agency in/and silence
  • Martha Norkunas (Middle Tennessee State University) : “She reimagines being unsilenced in speech and body”

15h45-16h00 : Coffee break

16h-17h Workshop – The ethics of studying sexual violence: Comparing archival and oral methodologies (AVG-Carhif)

18h30 : Dinner

Friday November 18

9h30-10h45 : Panel 3 – Historical sexual abuses. Chair: Tinne Claes (KU Leuven)

  • Romaine Girod (Université de Lausanne) : Silences and speech on sexual violence in the Catholic Church in Switzerland
  • Tracey Loughran (University of Essex) : “Trauma” and “Resilience” in women’s narratives of sex, sexuality, and sexual consent

10h45-11h : Coffee break

11h-12h45 : Panel 4 – Professionals’ silences. Chair: Ida Milne (Carlow College)

  • Tim Debroyer (KU Leuven) : The End of Tuberculosis? Stigma and Silence in the Aftermath of Disease
  • Ruth Beecher (University of Birkbeck London) : A silence register: Doctors, nurses and psychologists on their role in protecting children from sexual abuse
  • Anne-Sophie Crosetti (Université libre de Bruxelles) : On and off the record: Narrative strategies of Catholic counsellors in conversation with a socio-historian

12h45-13h45 : Lunch

13h45-15h – Panel 5 – Women’s silences. Chair: Juliette Masquelier (Université libre de Bruxelles)

  • Antje Van Kerckhove (KU Leuven) : Diethylstilbestrol and (breaking) silence in affected families (Belgium, 1970s – present)
  • Eleanor Strangways (Loughborough University) : Uncovering the experiences of female religious in Congo (1960-1980)

15h0-15h30 : Coffee break

15h30-16h30    Conclusions

16h30-17h : Networking

17h-18h30 : Keynote (online) – Estelle Freedman (Stanford University) : Before ‘sexual harassment’: Silence and speech in U.S. women’s oral histories


Practical information

17 & 18 November 2022
rue du Méridien 10 Middaglijnstraat

1210 Brussels


Participation is free (except for the conference dinner). Registration for the conference (and dinner) is compulsory, please use https://forms.gle/7r2mUg6Qb3vMSwSx8

Contact and additional information: silence-is-an-option@hotmail.com

Organisation committee:
Tinne Claes (tinne.claes@kuleuven.be)
Juliette Masquelier (juliette.masquelier@ulb.be)
Marjolein Van Bavel (marjolein.vanbavel@uantwerpen.be)


More info: Silence is (not) an option: Re-Thinking Oral History post-MeToo – symposium 17-18/11/2022 November – AVG-Carhif