Homo Narrans: Humans as Storytellers

We are humans. […] We are the moral inhabitants of the globe. To deny this, regardless of our feeble attempts to live up to it, is to lie in prison.-- Toni Morrison

"For me, the question ‘Who should speak?’ is less crucial than the question ‘Who will listen?"--Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

About the talk: Humans have for centuries confronted the challenge of treating one another ethically when people have very different ideas of right and wrong.  At this historical moment, many are skeptical of universalizing normative claims (for example, declarations of human rights), however emancipatory these may sound, either because such claims have been ineffectual or because they seem self-serving, an alibi for perpetuating the violence of colonialism. Asserting that all humans are rights-bearing individuals has not prevented us from dehumanizing and killing many human persons. 

This talk starts in a different place. What if, drawing on humanistic modes of inquiry and artistic creation, we begin by imagining all humans as tellers of stories that we, as other humans, are obligated to hear? Could this idea of homo narrans, human as storyteller, ground a productive quest to live freely as “moral inhabitants of the globe?”

About the speaker: Carol Quillen grew up in New Castle, Delaware, attended a Quaker K-12 school, went to a college—the University of Chicago— unlike what her family expected and skipped law school, her original plan, to get a PhD in history from Princeton. At her best, she genuinely wants to know the why behind your position rather than how to refute it. She has faith in the generosity of spirit that humans, in spite of ourselves, occasionally exhibit and tries to stand with openness in the tragic gap between the world that is and the world that could be.