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ESREA Life History and Biography Network


Harvard lecture Theatre

Telling human stories from the borderlands: adult learning in a natural and artificial world

Telling (and listening to) a human story in the world we live in is an art that requires the narrator to delve deep into the tapestry of modern existence where the threads of nature and technology are intricately woven. It calls us to explore the profound impact of these intimate connections on our human experience and appreciate the delicate balance between progress and preservation. 

In this balancing act, technology plays the role of both helpful tool and protagonist, influencing how individuals and communities  connect, communicate, and perceive the world. It can be argued that the comparatively recent rapid pace of innovation leads to unprecedented possibilities and unforeseen challenges.  Through the telling of human stories, we can capture the experience of learning to live well in this unknown borderland, and perhaps give focus to experiences and perceptions which may be overlooked, or yet to come to awareness. 

But what about the natural world? Capitalisms inspired consumerism and the drive to urbanisation, also play a crucial role in shaping lives and the stories that can be told. Increasingly sprawling cityscapes and artificiality are the backdrop against which many in post-industrialist societies navigate the complexities of modern life. The juxtaposition of steel, glass, and concrete with pockets of isolated greenery mirrors the tensions between assumptions of progress and learning to live well in the world. Telling human stories is a way of articulating the dreams and aspirations that draw some humans away from the ‘natural’ to urban places and the struggles to reconcile individual ambitions with the intrinsic need for social, cultural, economic and ecological harmony.

Outside of the artificial and urban, there is a delicate symbiosis between humans, their activities towards the planet and its non-human inhabitants. Climate change, natural disasters, and the spectre of environmental degradation are ever present and can feel overwhelming. Telling and learning from human stories can show the resilience of humans in confronting these challenges, highlighting adaptability and a determination to care for and conserve both human and non-human species.

As travellers in the borderlands between the natural and the artificial, our stories illuminate the ethical, spiritual and cognitive dilemmas many face. For example, issues of privacy, unregulated technological advancements, urban planning, and a consideration of the role(s) humans may have, as even though one of many species inhabiting the planet, human decision making has planetary significance. Storytelling provides a liminal space to engage with these complexities and an invitation to reflect on the choices we make in this evolving world. Telling a human story in this intricate tapestry means acknowledging the dichotomies which define our existence and learning to embrace the tensions.


The programme for the conference is available to download here (updated 03/06/24) 


2nd Call for Papers - Deadline 29th March 2024

Please email a short essay (1000 words maximum) to by the 29.03.2024. 'Essay' here should be understood as a open category and a space to try or attempt to define your thinking. They can resemble more traditional abstracts or short papers but can also be based on autobiographical, biographical or imaginary life histories and narratives.  These will be reviewed and then there will be an opportunity to discuss the themes which have arisen at a series of online seminars before the meeting in June. These online discussions will be an open space to ask questions and refine your thoughts on your own submission as well as providing a chance for peer feedback and support. Dates and links for these discussions will be sent in the new year. 


 Please register to attend the event at the link here. Ticket prices are as follows:

  • Non-member of ESREA - £180
  • ESREA Member - £160
  • PhD or MA Student - £120

For more information, please see the links below: 

ESREA - Bursary Information

ESREA - Conference Dinner

ESREA - Accommodation

ESREA - Geordie Phrases

ESREA - Location Maps

ESREA - Thursday walk route

ESREA - Online Meetings

ESREA - Stories and their Tellers

ESREA Life History and Biography Network Abstract Submission Form


Event Details

Harvard lecture Theatre
4th Floor, Business & Law Building, Northumbria University
City Campus East
Newcastle upon Tyne


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