Témoigner pour Agir Public exhibition
In order to present the key themes, issues, and findings of the research group and make them available to a broader audience, academics and community partners worked together to develop a collective work taking the form of a public exhibition called Témoigner pour Agir. The creation of this exhibition provides the opportunity for a unique venture to take place in a public space in order to disseminate our stories and to make testimonial cultures known. The exhibition took place at the Maison de la Culture Frontenac, from November 29th, 2017 to January 21st, 2018.
Testimonial video compilations and participatory archiving
We have identified hundreds of testimonials (journalistic and non-journalistic) delivered by people belonging to minoritized groups who often face discrimination and stigmatization based on their sexual or gender experiences or identities. One of the major components of the archive is a comprehensive inventory of testimonials from independent films and videos that have been produced in Quebec and across Canada since 1980. Through a participative process involving several partners and contributors, since 2009, the film and video archive activities have provided the basis for the production of three testimonial video compilations.
We are also working on creating an e-database that will make our archive available to the public and support the development of special projects.
Testimonial Cultures is looking for people who have given public testimonials as members of a sexual or gender minority (e.g. a person who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirited, intersex) and/or as a person with an experience in sex work. Volunteers will be asked to participate in interviews to provide a better understanding of their experiences. These interviews will focus on the process leading up to the decision to give a testimonial, the perception of possible risks and consequences, the experience of public disclosure itself, and its immediate and long-term impact.
These interviews build on a series of semi-directed interviews undertaken in 2008 and 2009 with men and women who had publicly disclosed their experience of being HIV-positive in the media.
The members of the research group participate in the collective interpretation of the testimonials, of their conditions of production and reception, all in a perspective of social transformation. They also involve other members of the concerned communities in order to promote the sharing of perspectives, expertise, and experience on the use, effect and limits of the testimonials as a social and cultural intervention strategy.
We regularly organize seminars that bring together students, community partners, professors, and community members. These seminars are intended to give our speakers and the participants an opportunity to discuss various contexts of production and reception of public testimonials.
Annually, a “study day” is organized to share opinions and experiences with regards to various contexts of production and dissemination within which testimonials are delivered. The study days have focused on: the convergence and diversity of testimonial production (2012), the ethical questions across research and testimonials (2013), and the experiment of an activity called Story Wheel (2014). Seminars are also occasionally organized for master’s and PhD students whose work is based directly or indirectly on the testimonial cultures of sexual communities.
Examination of ethical issues
What are our responsibilities as researchers, journalists, social workers, and community partners in regard to the protection of confidential information? Why and how should we enact the principle of “shared authority” of told, heard, or read stories? How can we minimize the risks associated with publicly disclosing a personal account or sexual or intimate story? Our project raises numerous ethical questions, which we must address.
A variety of activities, such as the publication of a document entitled The Megaphone (“Le Porte-voix“) describing various ways in which social support can be provided in ethical ways to people who give public testimonials, as well as workshops on various topics and the publication of articles allow us to exchange points of view on ethical and political issues raised by social research involving human subjects and by the co-production of public testimonials in social work, public education, and the media.