The Power and the Story - Storytelling as an emancipatory tool
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Man is Homo narrans, the symbol-making, storytelling animal, depending on biographical, mythical and social narrative to be able to grasp his own circumstances. Groups define themselves in distinction to the Other by the stories they tell, while at the same time, stories have the unique ability to expand one’s worldview by introducing the Other’s perspective. While the postmodernists saw the end of the unifying grand narrative and discourse in society has become increasingly fragmented by relativism and scepticism, a counterweight is provided by storytelling. Through its plurivocality, storytelling represents the connecting perspective, reflecting the heterological character and manifoldness or “non-onesidedness” of reality. This thesis investigates what I term discursive storytelling as an emancipatory tool. I show how two canonical works of art, which over time became ambiguous as reflections of the colonialist contexts in which they were conceived, were gradually assigned different meanings in a discourse of stories and counterstories. This process of challenging the existing narrative is central to the storytelling practice of the two arts organisations researched. Both Vocal Statements and De Voorkamer use storytelling as a tool in the context of their educational and social work to emancipate and voice outgroups. The discourse generated in and by these art organisations challenges the Dutch narrative of egalitarianism. Employed in this way, storytelling serves as an emancipatory tool, giving way to change and progress by shifting views on existing grand narratives.