Past Event! Note: this event has already taken place.

Listening to all voices? The politics of ‘lived experience’: concerns, contradictions, and challenges

March 28, 2023 — March 29, 2023

Location:Palatine Centre, Durham University
Stockton Rd, Durham DH1 3LE
United Kingdom
Key Contact:Dr. Stephen Ashe

LERRN is pleased to announce the following event on behalf of the Social Policy Association (SPA): Listening to all voices? The politics of ‘lived experience’: concerns, contradictions, and challenges. This free two-day summit of talks, activities and workshops is preceded by two calls for abstracts, the details of which are found below.

For up-to-date event details and the list of Keynote Speakers, please visit the official website for this event:

Event Website (External Link)

Event Description

It is often suggested that the inclusion of those with ‘lived experience’ in the development of research, policy, and practice does important work to challenge the exclusion of previously unheard, not listened to (or ‘hard to reach’) and/or minoritised groups. The production of knowledge(s) by and with rather than about can act as a potential challenge to testimonial and hermeneutical epistemic injustices (Fricker, 2007), and support marginalised, oppressed and subaltern groups in their efforts to be heard (Spivak, 2003); see also Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2020).

However, significant challenges arise when inclusion is tokenistic and when some accounts of ‘lived experience’ are listened to/or heard over others. Accounts of lived experience can be co-opted by researchers, policy makers and campaigners, working to (re-)produce epistemic injustices, and to distort inclusive policy and practice development. Becky McFarlane notes that people’s stories are both ‘…extremely powerful and have the potential to bring us together … but stories are also a commodity – they help others sell their products, their programs, their services – and sometimes they mine our stories for the details that service their interests best’ (quoted in Costa et al., 2012: 86).

Sponsored by the Social Policy Association, the Department of Sociology Communities and Social Justice research group and the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action at Durham University, are hosting two events – a one-day symposium and a one-day conference for postgraduate researchers (PGRs) – on these issues.

The one-day symposium (28 March 2023) will engage academics, researchers, policy makers, practitioners, community activists and those who have shared their lived experience(s) and will involve a mix of papers, provocations and research conversations.

The postgraduate researchers’ conference (29 March 2023) will provide a supportive environment for approximately 40-50 PGRs to share early stages of their research and to explore some of the challenges associated with research with people with ‘lived experience’ of social issues. The format of the day will consist of papers, thematic workshop sessions and discussions, and poster and other creative presentations.

These events have emerged from research group members recognising a series of shared challenges when accounts of ‘lived experience’ are used to develop and inform research impact, social policy, and social justice practices across a diverse range of policy and research areas including poverty, social work practice, diaspora communities, domestic violence, trafficking and workplace racism. These include: a lack of meaningful or diverse inclusion; the assumed binary positions of academics/policymakers and those with ‘lived experience’; and/or when accounts of ‘lived experience’ are purposely selected to support existing political or policy agendas.

Call for Abstracts

Abstracts for one-day symposium

In response to these concerns, contradictions and challenges, we invite abstracts or ideas for workshops or conversations for both our one-day symposium and our postgraduate researcher conference which might address the following questions, among other things:

  1. What are the ethical challenges involved when seeking to produce knowledge(s) by and with rather than about these groups?
  2. Which actors, identities and agendas are typically excluded or marginalized, even within ‘lived experience’ research, and why?
  3. Where, and to whom, do the benefits of research with those with ‘lived experiences’ accrue?
  4. Can the inclusion of accounts of lived experience reflect a diversity of lived experience/ identities? If so, how should go about doing this?
  5. How should we prevent accounts of lived experiences of marginalised and oppressed groups being co-opted to fit existing agendas?

Abstracts should be 200-250 words. It is also hoped that the events will be interdisciplinary – including participants from subject areas such as social policy, social work, sociology, criminology, and anthropology.

Abstracts for postgraduate researchers’ conference

Postgraduate researchers are invited to submit an abstract to:

  1. Deliver a traditional academic paper as part of a panel discussion;
  2. Be part of a roundtable discussion based in response to the five questions set out above; Or
  3. Contribute to poster and/or other visual and creative sessions (such as photographs, short films, music, zines, etc) with a view to sparking research conversations that are based on, while not limited to, the questions above.

Postgraduate researchers are also encouraged to submit abstracts for the one-day symposium.

Submit an Abstract

(Submission Deadline: 18 January 2023)

Following these events, the intention is to develop a proposal for a themed section on ‘the politics of lived experience’ (or similar) to be published in Social Policy and Society.

If you have any questions, please email: Dr. Stephen Ashe at