PROOF Executive Director Leora Kahn presented a paper on the findings and experiences of PROOF's signature Witnessing: Working with Testimony for Refugee Advocacy workshop with Anita Fábos of Clark University at the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM) Conference. In its 16th year, the IASFM Conference was held from July 12-15, 2016 at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland.
Refugee and migrant testimonies have helped stimulate and shape social change, and have on occasion been an effective tool for policy change and social transformation. But while advocacy on behalf of refugees often demonstrates the best of intentions, many social advocates grapple unsuccessfully with the power differentials at all stages of the process. Using techniques derived from drama and experiential learning, practitioners learn to recognize narrative strategies and ethical dilemmas inherent in sharing, choosing, and representing the difficult subject matter produced by many refugees. By developing an embodied understanding of power relations, advocates struggling with the ethics of representation of refugee and forced migrant narratives can identify strategies for producing alternative narrative frames. Drawing from the results of a series of workshops provided to a mixed group of refugee service professionals, community leaders, journalists, artists, and academics, Ms. Kahn and Dr. Fábos' paper reflects upon our use of these practices as a way to encourage empathetic listening and develop strategies of narrative disruption for refugee advocacy.