en5/2/5 | Activities/ Symposia / Beyond the Subject

Beyond the Subject - New Developments in Life Writing


From 31st October to 3rd November 2013 the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the History and Theory of Biography in Vienna hosted the third IABA Europe conference titled ‘Beyond the Subject – New Developments in Life Writing’. Experts in auto/biography from 25 countries took part in the conference. Around 90 papers were given on the latest trends and developments in the field of Life Writing and in the digital humanities in particular.

Wilhelm Hemecker gave an introductory talk after which the Vice Rector of the University of Vienna, Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, delivered the first keynote lecture titled ‘Mao, the Monk and the Umbrella’, in which she reflected on the difficulties of writing biographies of Mao Zedong.

The second keynote lecture was given by Paul Arthur of the University of Western Sydney, who used the online version of the Australian Dictionary of Biography to demonstrate innovative methods and new challenges for biographical research in the digital age.The significance of the spoken voice in relating life stories was discussed by Margaretta Jolly of the University of Sussex in the third keynote lecture using an example from oral history research. In the fourth and final keynote lecture, Kirsti Niskanen of the University of Stockholm used a digital database of insolvency cases around 1900 to show the social and economic difficulties faced by women affected by bankruptcy. At the same time she illustrated the possibilities offered by digital data for research into individual life stories.

From the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the History and Theory of Biography, Tobias Heinrich spoke on the topic ‘Communicative Identity. Epistolary Networks and the Cult of Friendship’, Georg Huemer gave a talk titled ‘Heroes and Villains of the Facebook Generation: Self Representation in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature’, David Österle spoke on the topic ‘Judaism as Heterotopia in the Life of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’, Ed Saunders discussed ‘Biographies of Arthur Koestler. A Ruptured Life?’, while Georg Bixa, Tobias Heinrich and Cornelius Mitterer presented ‘Biographeme. A Collaborative Approach to Virtual Biography’.

The epistemological and methodological possibilities of new media for research in auto/biography and for biographical practice were debated in many talks and discussions. Questions from gender theory, as well as social and cultural historical issues, were other important topics. A further focus was the challenge of transnational and multilingual Life Writing.