Episode 49 - Ethical Storytelling with Dr. Melissa Borja + Jacob Mau: Seeing Beyond Ourselves


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By Kayla Craig, Lindsy Wallace, Kayla Craig, and Lindsy Wallace. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

What is ethical storytelling? Why is it important to allow others to tell their own stories? In this thought-provoking episode, we're back from our hiatus to do a deep dive into what to consider when sharing the stories of others in a way that honors their dignity. Kayla Craig hosts with Lindsy Wallace and guests Dr. Melissa Borja and refugee advocate podcaster Jacob Mau.
Melissa Borja, a core faculty member in the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program at the University of Michigan, earned a PhD and MPhil in history from Columbia University, in addition to an MA in history from the University of Chicago and an AB in history from Harvard. She researches migration, religion, politics, race, and ethnicity.
Because Jacob Mau believes in the power of the voices and stories of displaced people, he created a podcast called Beyond Soundbites, a six-episode series that calls refugee supporters to an ongoing search for the personhood of refugees, the meaning of home, and the presence of God in stories of displacement.

In this episode, we:

  • Ask what it means to "magnify" and "amplify" stories.
  • Peel back how storytelling is significant and is approached differently by people doing different types of work—for example, oral historians like Melissa, advocates like Jacob, journalists like Kayla, and people working in ministry like Lindsy.
  • Discuss the importance of thinking carefully about the position and context of both the storyteller and the audience, and the (sometimes unequal) relations of power that can complicate their relationship.
  • Dive into the sacred aspects of storytelling and story-listening - as Melissa says, “the grace of listening to another’s story” and the powerful spiritual act of simply being present for people who are sharing their story.

In this episode, we ask:

  • What does it mean to tell "ethical" stories?
  • How can we place others as the subject -- not the object -- of stories?
  • Why is it true that in justice work, we show ourselves as the victim, or the hero, but rarely the perpetrator?
  • What guidelines do you follow when sharing others' stories?
  • What do we do with the phrase "voice for the voiceless?"

Discussion questions to ask yourself + others:

  • There’s been some talk about performative social justice, and that’s something we've seen played out on Instagram, if we're honest, with our friends, and if we're really honest, sometimes with ourselves. Why is there an urge to do this, sometimes even under the guise of humility? How can we protect ourselves against this? What questions should we ask ourselves?
  • Are we okay with experiencing connection and NOT sharing? Does everything have to be shared?
  • How do we incorporate God’s word and our faith into storytelling in respectful, kind ways?
  • How do we avoid centering ourselves?
  • When have you made a storytelling mistake? What did you learn from it?

News, Notes, and Links:

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