On Wednesday, February 14 from 4:00 – 5:30, Tackling T.I.N.A. will host its first of three public discussions. As part of an ongoing effort to challenge the dominant narrative that “there is no alternative” to capitalism, this free event focuses on how storytelling can be used as a strategy for political action.

Change the Narrative, Change the World

Led by graduate students in Lehigh’s Literature and Social Program (Department of English), Tackling T.I.N.A. discussions consider how literature — and narrative more broadly — can create social and political action. Using the two readings listed below, we investigate how storytelling already appears in political discussions and imagine how advocates and concerned citizens employ narrative more effectively at both the local and national level.

“Degrees of Freedom” is a short story by the contemporary Canadian author Karl Schroeder. It was published in 2014 in the forward-looking, action-oriented science-fiction anthology Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future. As you will see, Schroeder writes about national politics and indigenous land rights. The author imagines how digital technologies and storytelling can serve as powerful tools of resistance. Art humanizes, Schroeder argues, and without involving art in the decision-making process, politicians are blinded by numbers and abstract models, forgetting that what really matters is the lived experiences of their fellow Canadians. Dramatizing this concern, Schroeder proposes alternative modes of communication that attend to the diversity and tension that arises when discussing policies that affect millions.

Re:Imagining Change, by Doyle Canning and‎ Patrick Reinsborough, is a campaign strategy text. In it, the authors argue that narrative — not numbers — is the key to building social movements. For Literature scholars, this feels like second nature; however, by shifting the focus away from novels and toward activist and non-profit organizing, Canning and Reinsborough reveal one powerful way stories influence the behavior.  By reading a few select excerpts from this text, we introduce participants to some of the authors’ key theories. Furthermore, these short selections help us understand why it is often difficult to explain our fears or desires to individuals who hold different political values (spoiler: it has to do with narrative and the power of the imagination).

By pairing a short piece of fiction with a theory of political action that foregrounds storytelling, we hope to discuss how narrative provides the opportunity to disrupt the economic myth that “there is no alternative” to capitalism. Ultimately, our discussion encourages participants to integrate storytelling into their political toolbox as we begin to imagine a better future together.

The Readings

  • Degrees of Freedom” Karl Schroeder, from Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future. 
  • Select excerpts from Re:Imagining Change: How to Use Story-based Strategy to Win Campaigns, Build Movements, and Change the World, by Doyle Canning and‎ Patrick Reinsborough.

Save the Date:

  • What: Public Discussion (Topic – Storytelling as a Strategy for Change)
  • When: February 14, 2018, 4:00 – 5:30
  • Where: Humanities Center (224 W. Packer Ave., Bethlehem, PA  18015)
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