Life History and Biography Network

  • European Society for Research on the Education of Adults
  • Conference in Copenhagen 2 March - 5 March 2017




The 25th conference in the ESREA network, Life History and Biography Network (LHBN) will consider the very ideas that shape and maintain the societies in which we live, to see how they work for us and how they hold society back. The intention is to analyse and discuss the narratives related to ‘discourses we live by’ to better understand the consequences for ourselves, and for others, of people's implicit beliefs and subsequent actions.

The conference committee invite abstracts for papers that examine the conceptual frameworks that bound people’s thoughts and actions and consider how these matter to a global society.


Time and place

  • 2 March - 5 March 2017
  • Venue: Aarhus University, Campus Copenhagen, Tuborgvej 164, 2400 Copenhagen, Denmark

Register here:

About the network

The Life History and Biography Network of ESREA first met in Geneva in 1993 and has grown into a lively forum for debate. It attracts significant numbers of researchers, including doctoral students, from a wide range of different disciplinary backgrounds, and members come from every corner of Europe, and beyond. Within adult education and lifelong learning, life history and biographical approaches vary considerably, and our conferences are based on recognition and celebration of this diversity; we have sought to create spaces for dialogue, demonstration, reflexivity and discovery.

The Network holds an annual conference - hosted by one of our European members - choosing each year a new theme that builds on the discussions during the previous year.

The 2017 Conference Theme

To participate in the 2017 conference, you are asked to interrogate the discourses we live by and consider how they are present in cultural narratives and how they are relevant to the real life contexts of adult education and of people’s life histories. Question to what extent are people's accounts shaped by the understandings already held. Ask if the real life narratives that researchers collect transform understandings and shape acceptance of commonly held discourses.

Within this theme, participants will have divergent interests and will occupy different spaces on the theoretical/empirical spectrum and this diversity is welcomed. Work could be exploratory, evaluative or emancipatory, for example. For many it is the link between the local ‘micro- and meso-’ and the large ‘mega-’ level ramifications that fascinates. Writing in an educational context, Bernstein (1999) captures these strands as horizontal (everyday or common-sense knowledge) and vertical (coherent, explicit, and systematically principled) discourses.

Approaches to the conference theme

Participants could use their own narratives to newly explore existing discourses to understand their merits and disadvantages as an explanatory tool, or choose to examine specific discourses more closely to evaluate their effectiveness in a particular context. They could seek out discourses that appear to support inclusion, diversity or change, perhaps co- or re-structuring them to make them more fit for purpose. Some papers will be introspective, taking a reflective stance; others steer towards objectivity; many will combine these two approaches. Papers meeting these, and broader aims will be welcomed, and it is envisaged that for the conference, accepted papers will be grouped sensitively to take account of themes, approaches and intentions.

Communication is key to creating understanding – and both of these are fundamental requirements for cooperation and collaboration – but can take a range of forms. In keeping with the conference tradition, papers will take a narrative approach but communication need not be confined to dialogue. Words are a powerful medium but so, too, are the visual arts, dance, drama and music and all forms of activity that draw on the emotions. Responses to the theme that draw on non-verbal media will also be welcome.

Wherefore discourses?

The 2017 conference theme develops ideas that arose from discussions around ‘Resources of Hope’ the previous year. These drew inspiration from the work of British cultural theorist and adult educator, Raymond Williams, who advocated a society where respect and humanity underpin all aspects of intellectual challenge. Presentations considered the nature and role of hope in building better dialogue and connectivity between diverse people at a time when opportunities for dialogue are challenged, the ‘other’ experienced as a threat rather than a source of learning and enrichment. In the broader debates, participants acknowledged the serious political situations in many of their home nations and the suffering of the millions of homeless people fleeing repression and conflict, poverty and destitution, in countries nearby.

Conference participants were aware of the rising levels of xenophobia, racism and fundamentalism in the world outside but conscious, too, of the need to embrace, to value, and to work with ‘difference’ within our own walls. At the plenaries, participants reflected on the growing need to ensure that the conference reflects society as a whole. There is an evident need to build a safe space for the sharing of views and opinions whatever an individual’s background, also to find ways to address the language barriers that beset a European network, mindful that important ideas can be ‘lost in translation’.

For 2017, the conference is planned around similar notions of integrity, but asks participants to question their own assumptions by examining the suppositions and frameworks that underpin their thinking and their practices: the discourses they live by.

For Foucault (1972/1995, The Archaeology of Knowledge) discourse is steeped in status and power: it is the frame for what it is possible even to think in a given period. To identify a discourse, analysis focuses on practices and ideas that demarcate and marginalise. As such a discourse is a culturally constituted means of representing reality that is used to determine what it is possible to talk about and do within a society. Thus, discourses establish social ‘norms’ that then go unquestioned, perpetrating existing patterns of control and behaviour. Even, in contemporary society, people often conform to ‘norms’ accepting them as ‘truths’ rather than questioning their provenance, validity or applicability to different contexts.

As we are deemed to live in a globalised world by politicians and economists (Bhagwati, 2007; Shangquan, 2000; Stiglitz, 2002) and by sociologists (Bauman, 1998; Giddens, 1999; Mann, 2013) alike, there is a danger that ‘one world thinking’ overwrites diversity, concealing how the ‘universal’ process of globalization affects us differently depending of our place in the world (Standing, 2011).  Often the discussion of difference centres on capital and inequality (see Piketty, 2014, 2015; Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009) but McCloskey (2006) challenges this view as simplistic, encouraging people to look more broadly at other aspects of society. To use the words of the Danish anthropologist, Kirsten Hastrup (2012), it is important to remember that individuals live 'differently in the world'.

Alvesson and Karreman (2000) point out that capturing discourses is a complex process. “Discourse is a popular term used in a variety of ways, easily leading to confusion”. The  concept manifests within social studies in various ways and conference members are invited to use this flexibility to their advantage, to enable a diversity of treatments.

In general terms, discourse can refer to:

·         social texts;

·         other phenomena (experiences, events, material objects and social practices), their orientations and meanings and the power they wield; or

·         larger-scale and reasoned ways of ordering the social world (the more formal discourses seen within academic disciplines and organizational spheres).

All or any of these forms could be explored and conference participants are invited to consider the broader aspects, to reflect upon the influence of specific discourses on different members of society, to focus on diversity rather than normativity.

When people aim to smooth out differences, by claiming to be inclusive, holistic, and democratic, experience shows that trying to do this is an illusion. Even acting together the ESREA Network cannot avoid this constraint nor can it reform the world, but it can provide a space in which to start the process of analysis and debate and offer a forum where each contributor’s voice is heard and respected. 

At the 2017 conference, the intention is to address differences in our world analytically in order to celebrate them, to acknowledge that they exist and challenge the pretence that it is possible to remove them just by wanting to. Difference can occupy many positions but wherever it is placed, to understand difference will help us to better understand ourselves as well as others.

Conference languages

ESREA's language policy reflects the network’s European scope (and its much broader global interest). Conference languages are English and French but if you submit an abstract in French please provide an English version too, to assist the peer-review process.

Papers and presentations, too, can be delivered in French as well as English but please make available a short (1000-1500 word) summary in English or consider providing bilingual slides (English and French) if this is possible.

At the parallel sessions, bi- or multi-lingual participants will be present to facilitate understanding and debate but there is no formal translation service. ESREA conferences rely on tolerance, respect, mutual support, curiosity and thoughtful preparation to overcome language barriers.

When planning your presentations please allow time for an element of translation, and provide essential information as handouts or diagrams if this seems appropriate.

The close connections between research, language and narrative lie at the heart of the Network and the dual language approach seeks to facilitate communication across national and cultural divides. However, at the 2017 conference, where Danish is the host language, organizers recognize the importance of ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) – English used as a means of communication between non-native speakers for whom it serves as a common language. According to key proponent, Barbara Seidlhofer (2004) within English language teaching ELF serves two purposes.

Linguistically, ELF is a “contact language” for those who share neither a common native tongue nor a common (national) culture, and sociolinguistically, it plays an important role in enabling continuing interaction between such individuals.

The ESREA conference experience is that English serves this sociocultural role. To do this successfully it requires native English speakers to be aware that ELF is an English that differs from their everyday usage (Ur, 2010). When writing and speaking in English please help others to understand by avoiding or explaining idioms, metaphors and colloquialisms, and by speaking clearly, perhaps more slowly. 


For the conference choose accommodation in central Copenhagen. If you book a hotel near to Nørreport Station, your travel time to the Copenhagen campus of Aarhus University, by S-train (S-tog) will be about 12 minutes. (See also 'Transport in Denmark and to the Conference'.)

However, Copenhagen is a compact city and the transport is fast and efficient across the central areas.

We do not have a specific conference hotel, but recommend these options:

The cheapest option: Hotel Cab-inn

You have two options both at Frederiksberg.




The mid-range option: Hotel Richmond


How to get there from the airport and to Aarhus University, Campus Copenhagen 



The more expensive option: Hotel Ibsen and Hotel Arthur


How to get there from the airport and to Aarhus University, Campus Copenhagen 



Other options

If you want other hotel options, have a look at Airbnb is an option, too, if you want to look for private accommodation.

Although Copenhagen is not a very big city, and everything is within walking distance, we suggest that you choose an accommodation which is close to Nørreport Station (North Port Station), Vesterport Station (West Port Station) or Østerport Station (East Port Station). There are hotels around the Hovedbanegården (Main or Central Station), too, but this neighbourhood is a bit rougher so you may want to avoid this if travelling alone.  

Transport in Denmark and to the Conference

The conference takes place at Aarhus University, on the Copenhagen Campus.

DO NOT GO TO the city of Aarhus where the main University is situated: this is in another part of Denmark.Book a flight ticket to the capital, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Travelling by aeroplane, you will land in Copenhagen Airport - Kastrup. From Kastrup you can either take a Taxi to City (about kr. 250) or take the metro to Nørreport Station (about kr. 22). The metro takes about 15 minutes.

All the suggested hotels are in the city.

To get to the Copenhagen Campus of Aarhus University from your hotel, take the S-tog (S-train) from a nearby station. Both line B and line H will take you to Emdrup Station and the campus is next to this station.


In Denmark travel tickets allow you to travel on all systems: the metro, the S-train, and the buses. A single ticket allows you one hour of travel and you can change from one system to another without buying an additional ticket.

Single 1-hour tickets can be bought at the train station from vendor machines. Or by using your smartphone. Various ‘saver’ tickets are available - for longer stays the 'Rejsekort' is the cheapest option. You can also buy a tourist ticket for 24 hrs or 72 hrs.

Read about the transport system in Copenhagen here:   

Pre-conference event

The Danish Efterskole

The Efterskole is part of a uniquely Danish tradition that focuses on education of the person rather than certification alone. Efterskole follows the ideas of the great 19th century philanthropist, Grundtvig, who believed that schooling should promote enlightenment rather than narrowly focus on vocational competence.

The first school was established about 150 years ago to complement the existing Folk High Schools (schools to serve the people) and there are now more than 250 Efterskole spread throughout rural Denmark. These are self-governing independent institutions that vary in size and style but share a common goal to develop the personal strengths of the pupil by fostering close pupil-teacher relationships in a residential setting. Students can pursue new skills and interests alongside the normative formal examination system.

Efterskole cater for students between 14 and 18 years who can choose to spend one to three years at the institution and can access substantial state subsidies to make this possible. They are open to all, so successfully offer opportunities for needy students to change their habits without attracting stigma.

The Eferskole offer teenagers multiple opportunities: to ‘find themselves’; to gain independence from the family without leaving home; to start afresh educationally; to escape from situations where they are labelled or unhappy, bullied or victimised by peers; to specialise at things they are good at; develop skills they are poor at; or just space to ‘grow up’.

The focus is on the individual within the community, so the Efterskole helps students to find their place in society alongside personal fulfilment. Efterskole are both worthy and fun, making learning a positive experience and thereby encouraging patterns of lifelong learning – a message dear to the hearts of ESREA members.

Programme for the visit.


Learn more at  This website offers youtube clips; explanatory texts; historical, geographical and research data; and testimonials from former students (and can be accessed in English or Danish).

Experience the Efterskole yourself by booking a place on our visit:

Thursday 2 March - Visit to an efterskole, Baunehøj Efterskole near Copenhagen (you can have a look at the website. There are lots of pictures to look at so you can get an idea - but the text is in Danish)

This will offer opportunities to view the school and to talk to staff and students. It will include refreshments and lunch.

To allow for travel you will need to be ready for 8 am and can expect to be back in Copenhagen by 14.30. Cost €20 Due to space limitations places might be capped.

Further details will be forwarded to those who book a place. 



The Conference Dinner

TThe conference dinner is on Friday March 3rd at 20:00.

Venue: Spiseloppen, a restaurant in Copenhagen situated in Christiania.

Cost: DKK 375 (~€50,00)

Christiania is Copenhagen’s famous freetown, a do-it-yourself collective built within the ramparts of the old sea defences. It is an independent community dating from the early 1970s when a group of people, seeking an alternative lifestyle, forced their way through the fence demarcating the military barracks and began to build themselves rudimentary dwellings. For over forty years the settlement survived despite repeated clashes with the Danish State, and eventually in 2011 the community was granted legal status and a Foundation set up to oversee its management.

Christiania is currently home to more than 1000 people many of whom pursue musical, arts and craft activities and a sustainable lifestyle. The atmosphere is bohemian, the surroundings ‘retro’, but this is a tight-knit community with its own rules and regulations. Photography and mobile phone conversations are discouraged, and visitors (who annually number more than half a million) are wise to respect these restrictions.

Spiseloppen is located in an old military building at Badmandsstraede 43, facing Prinsessgade. It is a restaurant renowned for its diversity – of cuisine, of staff nationalities, and of customers – for it is popular with everyone from students to politicians, and a ‘must’ for visitors to Copenhagen. It is a gregarious venue – a good place to eat with friends – so do join us!

More information @ 





DKK 1750 (~€235,00) incl. 25% VAT - Doctoral Students

DKK 2160 (~€290,00) incl. 25% VAT - ESREA Member

DKK 2570 (~€345,00) incl. 25% VAT - Non ESREA member

Register here:

Programme and paper sessions

Pre-conference event: 'Visit to Baunehøj Efterskole'


Parallel sessions (version 2 March) - changes may appear

Round Table Discussion - On the Nature of Narrative and Discourse - Friday 3 March

Masterclasses - Sunday 5 March



Abstracts and Papers

Abstract and papers will be available here before the conference starts.

Alhadeff-Jones, Michel Abstract 

Bainbridge, Alan Abstract Paper

Barekstein, Berit Abstract

Bates, Sarah Abstract - Paper

Bergmo-Prvulovic, Ingela Abstract Paper Presentation

Boutiuc, Alina Florentina Abstract

Brayshaw, Teresa and Jenny Granville Abstract

Breton, Herve Abstract - Paper


Brøndum, Tine Abstract

Capo, Marianna Abstract

Castiglioni, Micaela & Carola Girotti Abstract - Paper - Presentation

Castro, Juan Carlos Pita Abstract

Chan, Adrienne Abstract Paper

Chant, Anne Abstract Paper

Dahl, Kari Abstract

Dirickx, Aurélie Abstract

Elbaz-Luwisch, Freema & Debbie Golden Abstract

Evans, Rob Abstract Paper

Finnegan, Fergal Abstract

Finnegan, Fergal; Merrill, Barbara; O’Neill, Jerry & Revers, Scott Abstract

Formenti, Laura & West, Linden Abstract Paper

Galimberti, Andrea, Ferrari, Mirella & Formenti, Laura Abstract

Garrino, Lorenza Abstract

Gonzalez, Miguel Abstract - Paper - Presentation

González-Monteagudo, José Abstract

Gornall, Lesley (1) Abstract Paper

Gornall, Lesley (2) Abstract

Hardy, Anne-France & Eneau, Jérôme Abstract Paper 

Horsdal, Marianne Abstract Paper

Høyen, Marianne & Rasmusen, Mumiah Abstract

Jury, Mark  Abstract

Leyland, Peter  Abstract Paper Presentation

Liao, I-Ching  Abstract  Paper

Meaney, Sarah Elizabeth  Abstract Paper

Middleton, Tristan  Abstract Paper

Morrissey, Dorothy  Abstract

Negro, Gaia Del  Abstract

Oikarinen-Jabai, Helena  Abstract Paper

Parsons, Chris Abstract

Pathak, Khum Raj Abstract Paper

Rasmussen, Simone Rams Abstract Paper

Reid, Hazel Abstract Paper

Riva, Susan Mossman Abstract Paper Presentation

Sciannamea, Roberta Abstract

Smith, Laura Mazzoli Abstract

Spence, Mike Abstract

Sprung, Annette Abstract Paper

Stead, Christina Abstract

Stevenson, Jacqueline Abstract

Stone, Paula Abstract

Suart, Rebecca Abstract Paper

Stølen, Gerd Abstract

Thunborg, Camilla & Bron, Agnieszka Abstract Paper

Walkers, Skyller Abstract

Wallin, Patric Abstract Paper

West, Linden Abstract Paper

Woodley, Helen Abstract Paper

Wright, Hazel Abstract 

Ylitapio-Mäntylä, Outi Abstract Paper

Young, Lee Na Abstract

Zientek, Marta Abstract Paper














Scientific Committee 2017

  • Laura Formenti, Linden West, Alan Bainbridge, (conveners of the Network)
  • Marianne Høyen, Hazel Wright  (convenors of the 2017 Conference) 
  • Jean-Michel Baudouin, Agnieszka Bron, Christopher Parson, Freema Elbaz-Luwisch, Rob Evans, Fergal Finnegan, Barbara Merrill, José Gonzalez Monteagudo, Hazel Reid, Vera Sheridan, Laura Mazzoli Smith

Members of the Scientific Committee come from Denmark, Eire, Israel, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. We have all been active in the Network and in ESREA for some time. Individually and collectively, we are committed to creating a learning community that offers all researchers (young and old, established and starting out) a safe space for critical thought and debate and ultimately for the dissemination of their views and findings.


The conference will be held at the Copenhagen campus of the University of Aarhus, Denmark at the invitation of Marianne Høyen, PhD and the Danish School of Education. This campus is situated close to Emdrup light rail S-station, easily accessible from the centre of Copenhagen.

Copenhagen is a compact and attractive capital city that offers many possibilities for accommodation and for eating out, and for cultural visits. It is well-served by public transport, with regular and speedy train and bus routes to and from the international airport at Kastrup, Copenhagen.

Preliminary Conference schedule

The formal conference starts late afternoon Thursday  2 March, ends at noon Sunday 5 March.

Optional educational visits will take place on Thursday morning.

Optional conference dinner will take place on the Friday evening.

Style guide

ESREA Life History and Biography Network Conference Full paper guidelines

  • No longer than 5,000 words.
  • All main text in font Times New Roman point 12.
  • Title in Times New Roman <g class="gr_ gr_43 gr-alert gr_gramm undefined Grammar multiReplace" id="43" data-gr-id="43">point</g> 14 bold. Please use Header typography
  • Sub-titles in Times New Roman point 12 bold. Please use Header typography
  • Multiple space lines 1,3 or 1,5.
  • Main text to be left justified
  • Paragraphs indicated by space above the paragraph - without indenting.
  • Quotes to be single spaced and indented if they are sufficiently long to take up more than one line of text.
  • Quotes of less than one line to be ‘included in the text between quotation marks’.
  • Page number inserted in the bottom <g class="gr_ gr_37 gr-alert gr_spell undefined ContextualSpelling multiReplace" id="37" data-gr-id="37">right hand</g> corner.
  • Reference according to Harvard style. For details please go <g class="gr_ gr_42 gr-alert gr_gramm undefined Punctuation only-del replaceWithoutSep" id="42" data-gr-id="42">to:</g>;
  • List all references used in the main text in a final Bibliography.  


  • Deadline for final papers (3000 – 5000 words): 31 January 2017
  • Detailed guidelines for submission, conference arrangements and the conference <g class="gr_ gr_44 gr-alert gr_spell undefined ContextualSpelling multiReplace" id="44" data-gr-id="44">programme</g> will be made available on the website        

 Language guidelines 

  • Abstracts: in English or French with an English translation as this is the lingua franca for peer review.
  • Papers and presentations: in English, or French with a short (1000-1500 word) summary in English. Slides: bilingual (English and French) if possible.