'Resources of Hope' - The place of hope in researching learning lives

The Annual Conference of ESREA – European Society for Research on the Education of Adults - Life History and Biography Network

Thursday 3 to Sunday 6 March 2016
Venue: Canterbury Cathedral Court

Conference will commence with registration and welcomes on Thursday 3rd March at 4pm Canterbury Cathedral Lodge and close on Sunday 6th March lunchtime.

Where and why do we see the most important resources of hope to lie: in intimate or social life, in private, sacred spaces, or in material relationships and democratic experience? Or all of these dimensions?

  • What are the resources of hope that enable people to keep on keeping on, or for transformation?
  • Can the sites of adult education survive the colonisation of space by dominant economic agendas and the grip of homo economicus ?
  • Do teachers and learners have the same resources of hope in an era of audit and commodification?
  • Is hope a motivator towards adult learning and is education necessarily a source of hope?
  • What are the potential manifestations and implications of hopelessness?
  • Can hope become a delusional fantasy or a denial of reality in an increasingly divided and troubled world?

The location of the Conference
The conference will be held in the beautiful settings of the Cathedral Lodge within the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral, in the centre of this ancient city. A cathedral has existed on this site for over 1300 years, while some of its Deans and Archbishops have been passionately interested in adult education, in the broadest sense, and in ideas of social justice. The building is used for courses and conferences. The Cathedral Lodge offers attractive accommodation and there are many other hotels and guest houses nearby.

From its first meeting in Geneva, in 1993, the Life History and Biography Network of ESREAhas been a forum for a wide range of researchers, including doctoral students, drawing on different disciplinary backgrounds, and coming from every corner of Europe, and beyond. Life history and biographical approaches in adult education and lifelong learning are very diverse, and our conferences are based on recognition and celebration of this diversity; we have sought to create spaces for dialogue, demonstration, reflexivity and discovery. In 22 years, the Network has provided the basis for diverse and influential publications, as well as for major collaborative research projects and many other forms of collaboration. It is our intention to continue this established tradition and we anticipate that a book will emerge from this conference.

Our previous conferences have explored areas of research and practice in life history and auto/biography: such as the political role of life history and or arts based research, the role of wisdom and the spiritual, of the emotions, of the embodied nature of learning and narratives, of the meaning of words, of interdisciplinary research, and of the dynamic of agency and structure as well as structuration processes (see ESREA’s website and the Introductory Chapter of Embodied Narratives. Connecting stories, bodies, cultures and ecologies, edited by Laura Formenti, Linden West and Marianne Horsdal

During the last two conferences, in Milan 2015, and Magdeburg, 2014, different topics emerged as interesting themes for life history and auto/biographical research: of the political role and potential of our work as well as the role of the arts, of literature, poetry and music in helping to illuminate and think about the parameters of learning and agency in a troubled world. We have now decided to focus on the place and nature of hope in learning lives, and of the resources of hope that we draw on as both researchers and people, whether at an individual or collective level.

We want to consider the role of hope in building better dialogue and connection between diverse peoples, at a time when dialogue often seems difficult and the other and otherness can be experienced as a threat rather than a source of enrichment. The other may be someone of a different class, religion, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation etc. and the dynamics of our interaction may be stifled. Perhaps we may need new resources of hope to help in building a new politics and education of and for humanity, across difference; and for strengthening democratic processes in contexts of diversity.

For over 40 years the emphasis has been on dialect, on what is distinct, of empowering the marginalized and neglected; this continues to be important, yet we might also need attention to be paid to what we share in common, as human beings, and how we can build resources of hope collectively at a global, national and local level.

It was the British cultural theorist and adult educator Raymond Williams who coined the phrase ‘resources of hope’, and whose inspiration continues to be alive today. Williams had been deeply involved in workers’ or popular education in the United Kingdom, which was an alliance between workers organisations and progressive elements in universities. A mix of Enlightenment idealism, faith in reason, as well as, for others, like R.H. Tawney, religious belief in the potential divinity in everyone, characterised this movement and its aspirations towards democratic socialism. Here was a tradition that played a key role in envisioning and building the welfare state after the Second World War (Rose, 2010).

Moreover, such popular education could model, in microcosm, the good, fraternal and more egalitarian, democratic society that many aspired to. The experience shaped Williams’ own conviction that spaces were needed across civil society in which people could learn openness and respect for each other and for different perspectives. Where all partialities of opinion could enter in a spirit of intellectual challenge and social purpose, combined with respect and humanity. 

The generation of resources of hope was, in such terms, no easy, flabby, limited academic affair. It was a questioning, challenging and troubling space, in the company of people who, despite differences, could sometimes become friends. It was a quest for something better in which human agency rather than economics per se had a central role.

A focus on the nature and role of hope, within life histories, may inevitably include aspirations towards a better and perhaps more peaceful life. This may be particularly appropriate for us today in the context of rising levels of xenophobia, racism and fundamentalism. During both the Magdeburg and Milan conferences, a number of us began new conversations about the biographical origins of what we thought to be essential for the good life, and the good society: which included being attentive to the social and political life of the planet, of our country/ies, institutions, and/or groups.

This might link, in turn, to our experiences during childhood, adolescence, youth and adulthood, where resources of hope were created: perhaps by a teacher, in political movements, in a spiritual encounter or by falling in love with literature. Hope of course plays an important role in religious and spiritual communities: the hope of a better future, perhaps, or of redemption, or of finding resources of hope in giving to others.  We want to create a space where we might think about such experience together, however different our understanding might be: to seek to illuminate where resources of hope can lie, and how we make sense of them, whether in the lives of those with whom we research, or in our own lives, when thinking auto/biographically.

Some questions

  • What resources of hope are foregrounded in our research?
  • What resources of hope have been important in our own lives?
  • Can life-based or narrative research itself offer resources of hope, and if so how and why?

Resources of hope, as noted, can take other forms:  Raymond Williams himself saw great potential in new forms of communication technologies, and their capacity not only for educational activity but also for experimenting and experiencing forms of self-government. Resources of hope might, in short, be partly digital: in the interplay of diverse communities, local and global; and in a determination to occupy or reclaim parks, halls, schools, universities, churches, synagogues and mosques for building horizontal forms of dialogue, learning and decision making.

Life-histories and auto/biographies also represent potential sites of innovation, for transformative learning, for community and political action, in diverse settings as well as for, at a different level, experience, perhaps, of the numinous and sacred. In such terms researching lives goes far beyond “pure research” - or a detached view of academic research in an ivory tower – towards a highly nuanced as well as subjectivist sensibility.  

The conference seeks to build dialogue around this theme, and differing ways of understanding it: between those who may see the issue as to do with challenging oppression in the secular world and securing control over processes of production and or reproduction; or those who think the spiritual, or even the religious, is a crucial resource of hope (not least given the location of our conference in the Cathedral grounds).

We will also be attentive to weaving into our work previous themes of our conferences: embodiment and narrative, critical reflection, social change, agency. One goal of this conference is to encourage all participants to reflect on their research and to ask themselves about the meaning of hope, at both a social and maybe a more intimate and individual level, as well as methodologically:  where hope might lie, in short, in the business of doing research itself, in its myriad forms and dimensions.

The deadline for abstracts has now passed.

Those who wish to submit full papers to be mindful of the conference theme and to do so by 8th February 2016. These will be made available on the website. Full papers are not a pre-requisite to presenting or attending.

For further information, please write to:
Professor Laura Formenti: ; or Professor Linden West: ; or

The conference fee includes conference pack, refreshments and light lunches. A 3 course Gala Dinner on Friday 4 March at the Cathedral Lodge is optional.


  • ESREA Member - £216 excluding gala dinner (290€)
  • Non-member - £257 excluding gala dinner (345€)
  • Doctoral Students - £175 excluding gala dinner (235€)
  • Friday 4 March Gala Dinner - £37 (50€)

You can select these options when you book your place.
(Exchange rate @ £1 = 1.3450€ as at 8/1/2016)


ESREA will offer 2 bursaries (300 Euros each) for doctoral students. The money is to be used for travel and or accommodation. The bursaries are awarded to those whose access to the conference might otherwise be difficult.

Candidates must apply in the first instance to Gill Harrison:
Email with the following details; Name, Email, Current Address, Institution. The busary is only awarded to those whose papers have been accepted by the Scientific Committee.

Delegates will need to make their own accommodation arrangements.
A comprehensive list of accommodation in the City and close to the our main campus can be found in Canterbury Visitor's Booklet

For any enquiries about this conference please email:

Our Scientific Committee

Laura Formenti, Linden West (conveners of the Network)

Michel Alhadeff-Jones, Alan Bainbridge, Jean-Michel Baudouin, Elisabetta Biffi, Agnieszka Bron, Francesco Cappa, Bettina Dausien, Rob Evans, Marianne Horsdal, Barbara Merrill, José Gonzalez Monteagudo and Hazel Reid.

Members of the Scientific Committee come from Austria, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom; the Anglophone Francophone and German speaking worlds as well as other language communities. All of us have been active in the Network and in ESREA for some time, and we are committed to create a learning community and to offer good critical space for younger and older researchers.

Our Organising Committee

Alan Bainbridge, Gill Harrison, Linden West, Hazel Reid, Gaia del Negro, Alison Fielding, Anne Chant

Click on the titles to view the abstracts. Links to the full papers will be added as they are submitted.

  1. The ‘Natural World’ as a Resource of Hope: human and non-human living together apart
    Alan Bainbridge - Full paper »
  2. Vers de nouvelles utopies biographiques?
    Jean-Michel Baudouin
  3. Young Hopes and Great Expectations: an exploratory study with Italians graduates in Education
    Chiara Biasin, Matteo Cornacchia and Elena Marescotti
  4. Telling Hope: A Transformative Journey of Young Women from Eastern Europe to Italy
    Chiara Biasin and Paola Dal Pastro
  5. Stories as a ‘resource of hope’ for the educational professions
    Elisabetta Biffi
  6. Learning decisions and creative solutions of foreign educated migrants and the impact on their labour market integration in Germany and Canada
    Alina Florentina Boutiuc
  7. Hope and despair. Non-traditional students’ stories in the transition from HE to the labour market
    Agnieszka Bron - Full paper »
  8. Hope and Fear in Christianity and Buddhism: Practices of Self- and Social Transformation
    Ann K Brooks and M Todd Hall
  9. Hope – and various paths into hope
    Målfrid Bruknapp, Berit Bareksten and Jan-Kåre Breivik
  10. Life after cancer and career: Education as a resource of hope
    Graham Cable
  11. The secret encounter between the generations.  Legacy, event/encounter, translation: three resources of hope for education
    Francesco Cappa
  12. The Day the Mountain Crumbled Down: Gender Portraits, Voices, and Pieces of Hope
    Salud Mora Carriedo
  13. Hope: a word that educates?
    Micaela Castiglioni
  14. Networks of Hope: A Place for Possibility and Agency
    Adrienne Chan
  15. Belonging in the Promised Land: an exploration of identity in the stories of second generation migrants
    Anne Chant - Full paper »
  16. Hope in prison? Young fathers and Family literacy, 3 stories .
    Peter Clough
  17. Hope in the critical and feminist practices of contemporary museums
    Darlene Clover and Kathy Standford - Full paper »
  18. Auto/biographical co-operative research as resource of hope for self and others
    Gaia Del-Negro
  19. Donner vie à une seconde chance dans l’incertitude
    Une enquête sur les ressources investies dans un projet de reconversion professionnelle volontaire
    Aurelie Dirickx - Full paper »
  20. Currere and the Dialectic of Hopeful-Realism
    Marilyn Doerr - Full paper »
  21. Telling work-stories in relation to hope & adult learners
    Lisbeth Drejer Dybro
  22. Resonance, recognition and deep listening: the texture of hope in personal narratives
    Freema Elbaz-Luwisch
  23. Hope comes not that comes to all. Young adults' learning biographies, distant conflicts and narratives of hope under the pressures of war.
    Rob Evans and Monika Popow
  24. March of the Women: Signs of hope for 'doing politics differently in the UK
    Alison Fielding
  25. Beauty as a resource of hope. Clues of transformative learning in the narration of aesthetic experience
    Laura Formenti
  26. The representation of hope in cancer care through the filmography: the nursing students’ reflection
    Lorenza Garrino, Maria Grazia Bedin, Isabella Brandino, Albina Gargano,  Marilena Mamone, and Valerio Dimonte
  27. Identity in finding a voice: resources of hope for the public square that illuminate rather than adjudicate
    Trevor Gerhardt - Full paper » | - powerpoint »
  28. Krik?Krak! Creative Life Writing a Space for Radical Change
    Sindi Gordon
  29. Imagination, hope, and the power of story: learning through fiction
    Patricia Gouthro - Full paper »
  30. Comment et en quoi le stage à l’étranger peut-il induire des apprentissages transformateurs utiles dans les pratiques de soins interculturels?
    Myriam Graber
  31. Leaning into Hope:  Greening the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to Cultivate Environmental Citizenship
    Janet E Groen
  32. Effective use of real-life events as training strategy in a nursing degree program for give hope to cancer patients
    Cristina Arrigoni, Lorenza Garrino, Anna Maria Grugnetti and Daniela Miazza
    - Full paper »
  33. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative: exploring the case for continuing support for the learning of a foreign language for leisure purposes in later life
    Rebecca Hooker - Full paper »
  34. Life story narratives as resources of hope
    Marianne Horsdal - Full paper »
  35. Transferring hope - when career aspirations have to change
    Marianne Hoyen - Full paper » | Presentation »
  36. A background paper on the (under)representation of women in STEM careers through the lens of a life history approach
    Michela Insenga - Full paper »
  37. Hope and Humanism beyond the Wantsum
    Ian Jasper
  38. Continuing to Make Sense of The Deweyan-Inspired Narrative Conception of Hope
    Lenora M LeMay
  39. Hope beyond words: body in guidance
    Silvia Luraschi and Alessia Vitale - Full paper »
  40. Quelles ressources d’espoir, les adultes mobilisent pour faire face aux épreuves de leur parcours de parentalité?
    Alain Luthi-Pierre
  41. Quel espoir se construit dans la relation de soin? Réécrire sa vie avec la maladie
    Laurent Marty
  42. Can democratising widening participation discourse contribute to the resources of hope available to marginalised learners?
    Laura Mazzoli-Smith - Full paper »
  43. Une écriture autobiographique semicolta: Le sentiment totalisant en Clelia Marchi
    Jessica Mazzottie
  44. The Sky’s the Limit”: Resource of Hope or Cultural Myth?
    Karen R Nestor - Full paper »
  45. Lilo Linke: A ‘Spirit of Insubordination’ - Autobiography as Emancipatory Pedagogy: A Turkish Case Study
    Anita Judith Ogurlu
  46. Together against the “sad passions”
    Elizabeth O'Neill, Patrizia Ottone, Susanna Ronconi
  47. Is the “Forest School” phenomenon in England a “resource for hope” or is it simply wishful thinking?
    Alan Pagden
  48. The quality of hope: how voluntary engagement measures up to standard in the field of language learning for migrant adults in Switzerland .
    Chris Parson
  49. Hopefully Devoted! Mapping a cartography of hopeful resources within a complex spatial ecology of adult higher education
    Aideen Quilty
  50. Passion as the sustainer of hope in learning lives'
    Khum Raj-Patak
  51. Narrative career counselling: creating horizons for hope
    Hazel Reid
  52. The Anatomy of Dissent as Teachers Plan and Lead a Demonstration in Seattle: Intersections of Hope, Agency, and Collective Action
    Richard Sawyer
  53. The HopeSchool project: a learning path for a “hope scientifically founded and politically possible”
    Antonia Scardicchio - Full paper »
  54. Hope(lessness) and education: 1956 Hungarian refugee students writing autobiographies as part of assessment for scholarships in the USA
    Vera Sheridan
  55. Writing in a journal: a resource to document hope, learning and transformation through a researcher’s doctoral journey
    Laurie Simpson
  56. The Deaf Leading the Blind - A chronicle in developing resources for impossible situations
    Mike Spence
  57. Analyse de l'expérience d'un « collectif-en-devenir » : une praxis instituante ressource d'espoir?
    Youcef Chekkar, Gabriel-Marie Faye, Lea Laval and Louis Staritzky
    - Full paper » | - Full paper (French) »
  58. Women at the School Gates: Can Women Hope to Balance Career and Family?
    Christina Stead
  59. Refugee students in higher education: narratives of hope and possibility
    Jacqueline Stevenson
  60. Hope lies in Opportunity: A Case Study
    Sian Stevenson
  61. Moving Memory Workshop
    Sian Stevenson
  62. Hope, joy and disappointment in lifelong learning
    Gerd Stolen
  63. Is “Doing my job” the same as “Doing the right thing”? Finding Resources of hope
    Paula Stone
  64. Extraordinary communities - what happens when catastrophes/disasters hit us?
    Jan-Kåre Breivik and Tobba Sudmann
  65. Voicing Hopeful Narratives
    Susie Riva-Mossman - Full paper »
  66. ‘Situating The Reciprocal’: Searching Transformational Encounter Through the Creative Narrativisation of Intimate Space
    Alice Tuppen-Corps
  67. Hope and Internalized Racial Oppression: Implications for Adult Education
    Lucio Varela - Full paper »
  68. 'Viral memes' and 'hopeful monsters': Evolving narratives of gender politics, political economy, and political ecology in representations of prehistoric societies
    Peter Vujakaovic (Please contact for a copy of the full paper.)
  69. Shifting the Spiritual Safe Haven
    Skyller Walkes - Full paper »
  70. A profound resource of hope. The Lidice shall live campaign; connecting history and the present, children and grandparents, the local and global in the education of citizens
    Linden West
  71. Hope in human agency
    Hazel Wright
  72. Biographical Research on Community Building Activists:“The People that village cultivated.” A case of Daechun-chun Community in Busan, South Korea
    Kyu-Hong Hwang and Byung-Jun Yi
  73. A Study on Life History of Regional Culture Planner
    Hyung-Dong Lee and Byung-Jun Yi


Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:35:00