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StOries Project: Strangers to Ourselves

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The StOries Project: Strangers to Ourselves used literary writing to examine the lived experience of Canadians to generate new insights into complex and multigenerational migration histories, and contested notions of diversity, race and identity in Canada today.

An interdisciplinary cohort of graduate students participated in workshops and individual practice to develop skills in critique and writing, with the aim to produce literary works that explore the complex nuances of living in the in-between spaces.

The StOries Project culminated with the completion of an anthology of stories and essays that became a repository of contemporary Canadian writing representative of the social phenomenon of migration and multiculturalism. Such a collection adds more insights and texture to the rich canon of immigrant writing that already exists in Canada.

A group of 23 participants, either current or recent graduate students from across Canada, were selected as part of a competitive process, to participate in the StOries Project: Strangers to Ourselves. The project was launched in July 2021 and run until March 2022.

The cohort of aspiring writers, all with a background in graduate studies (and several working subsequently with marginalized populations), participated in a variety of group activities and collective reflection strategies to create their own piece of creative writing.

Using storytelling and personal voice, the participants of the StOries Project produced new forms of knowledge to generate a better understanding of the lived experience of migration. Such alternative forms also have the potential for broad dissemination, making migration stories and issues accessible in non-academic and mainstream contexts.

Delivered in three phases, StOries combined teaching, training, and creative writing:

Phase I (Jul.- Oct. 2021): Weekly meetings were completed. The training period culminated with a special hybrid workshop session with internationally acclaimed Canadian writer M.G. Vassanji, held on Nov 27, 2021. 

Phase II (Dec. 2021) Final draft submissions.

Phase III (Jan. to Mar. 2022) Preparation of anthology.

The goal of the methodology was to create non-hierarchical, respectful, and safe spaces where difficult conversations among peers may be held. During the first phase, instructor-led and peer-initiated sessions explored a range of migration-related topics, centering on formations and perceptions of the self that emerge from race and ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexuality (and their intersections) in Canada today.

One-to-one mentorship also gives participants the opportunity to hone their craft and explore future directions for writing projects.  Writing prompts and breakout-group conversations help to generate discussions on the personal experiences of belonging, difference and inclusion, and how these themes may be presented in a creative or literary piece.

The project has concluded. The open access book Migration and Identity through Creative Writing (external link)  (Springer, 2023) was published in October 2023 as part of the the IMISCOE Research Series.

Personal storytelling, lived experience, intersectionality, identity politics, multiculturalism, creative writing

Esra Ari, PhD in Sociology & Migration and Ethnic Relations Studies, Western University

Ozlem Atar, PhD Candidate in Cultural Studies, Queen’s University

Bibi Baksh, PhD Candidate in Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University

Thábata Costa, Master in International Studies, Simon Fraser University 

Natasha Damiano, PhD Candidate in Rehabilitation Sciences, University of British Columbia

Keisha Deoraj, Master’s Candidate in Education, Ontario Tech University

Owen Guo, Master in Global Affairs, University of Toronto

Christian Hui, PhD Candidate in Policy Studies, Toronto Metropolitan University

Brianna Jennings, Master’s Candidate in Social Work, Carleton University

Nabila Kazmi, PhD Candidate in Education Studies, University of Victoria

Arun Kumar Rajavel, Master’s Candidate in Philosophy, University of Victoria

Galina Liou, Master’s Candidate in Arts in Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island

Jenny Osorio, PhD in Secondary Education, University of Alberta

Sarah Ostapchuk, Master in Professional Communication, Toronto Metropolitan University

Sadaf Rezakhan Khajeh, Master’s Candidate in Fine Arts in Documentary Media, Toronto Metropolitan University

Chelsea Richards, Master’s Candidate in Fine Arts in Documentary Media, Toronto Metropolitan University

Negin Sahebavaher, Master in Sociology, University of Calgary

Karen Young, Master’s Candidate in Immigration and Settlement Studies, Toronto Metropolitan University

Melanie Zuzarte, Master in Child and Youth Care, Toronto Metropolitan University