Telling Y(our) Story. Precarity of Trust in Contemporary Refugee Life Narratives


  • Jan Rupp


Emerging from a growing number of conflicts and catastrophes in the twenty-first century, contemporary refugee life narratives are marked by a multiple ero­sion of trust, and yet are intimately engaged in rebuilding trust. In the face of material and legal constraints for refugees to speak, their life stories are frequently facilitated by new networks of solidarity to protest hostile immigration regimes, involving activists, lawyers, go-between writers, and translators, among others. These networks offer a safe space for testimony and work towards restoring trust while mutually inscribing biographers and biographical subjects in a relational act of telling y(our) story: The refugee’s tale – ‘your’ story – encapsulates the collabo­rative and trust-building tale of its making – ‘our’ story. Outlining a narratology of trust in refugee life-writing, the paper assesses the intricate and innovative dy­namics of ‘hospitable form’ in acts of fictional accommodation, in multiperspec­tival emic and etic narratives, and in the interplay of auto- and heterobiographical storytelling.