Life writing is an organic practice, and a new disciplinary field in educational inquiry. It resonates with individuals, communities, academics, and a wide variety of educators nationally and internationally. In an often dehumanizing world, societies across the globe are hungry for human stories and the values that reside in them. Life writing is a way of knowing and being that resembles practices of wisdom traditions. Through the deep work of paying attention to particular places and events, the practitioner may be rewarded with a greater understanding of self-in-relation to others. Life writing can guide people and societies around the world to enact new ways of living in relation to each other, giving voice to marginalized populations, and leading to a new ethos for our times. It is a significant expression of being literate and becoming literate, one that is rooted in the timeless and deeply human desire to story the self, our relationships with others, and the places we know.
Life writing threads through established disciplines such as history, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, literary and cultural studies, education, psychology, linguistics, language arts, literacy, and literature. Life writing records, documents, and interprets memories, testimonies, life stories, and experiences. Traditionally this practice focused on creative-nonfiction genres of letters, diaries, journals, narrative essays, memoirs, autobiographies, and biographies. As a collective of life writers, we extend the traditional conception of life writing to include oral histories, storytelling, poetry, music, dance, drama, social memories held in arts and artefacts such as textiles, handicrafts, photographs, dance, and visual art. Digital and social media and texts such as blogs, email, and websites continue to transform the traditional practice of life writing into a new domain that blurs and transgresses genres and modalities.
Life writing, as a curricular and pedagogical approach, addresses questions about critical, life-changing moments of learning and teaching. Teachers and learners can engage in life writing as: a theorizing approach to educational inquiry and a method for it; a curricular and pedagogical practice; an artful and literary expression; a political and personal way of being in the world; and a philosophical and spiritual attunement in relation to this world. In diverse genres of creative non-fiction, authors write about their experiences of coming to understand what matters most to them (and others), what sustains them (and others) and the places they inhabit, and what they have given their hearts to. Along with renowned curriculum scholar and teacher Ted T. Aoki (1987/2005, p. 349), we ask:
What are the personal and communal stories that have been told, are being told, and have yet to be told?
Who are we that tell these stories, and what indeed do these stories tell?
What are the questions to which these stories are answers?
Aoki, T. T. (1987/2005). Revisiting the notions of leadership and identity. In W. F. Pinar & R. L. Irwin (Eds.), Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki (pp. 349–355). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.