Professeur invité


Danilo Rothberg, Professeur au Département de Sciences Humaines de la Faculté d’Architecture, Arts et Communications et Directeur de l’Ecole Doctorale (et Masters) de la Communication à l’Universidade Estadual Paulista « Júlio de Mesquita Filho » (Unesp)

Project: “Literary journalism, Memory and the Struggle for Environmental Sustainability in Brazil”


One of the requirements of the Chaire Franco-Brésilienne dans L’Etat de São Paulo that John S. Bak was awarded for a second time in 2018 is a reciprocal agreement to invite a Brazilian scholar from State University of São Paulo « Júlio de Mesquita Filho » (Unesp) to the Université de Lorraine. In 2017, his Professeur Référent from Unesp, Marcelo Magalhães Bulhões, did not wish to exercise the option to come to France, but, in 2018, Danilo Rothberg did. His interest was to pursue his interdisciplinary research with I.D.E.A. as part of its ReportAGES research project on literary journalism.

The complexities underlying the study of literary journalism with regard to its interface with the social sciences have increasingly been the subject of discussion in the scientific literature, partly because of the decline in the credibility of conventional journalistic narratives in the digital landscape of production and circulation of stories and accounts not associated with the industrial media (Bak & Reynolds, 2011). In this context, social research techniques based on memory and ethnography research have emerged as a possibility to uncover perspectives in journalistic accounts and therefore strengthen journalism by increasing its attractiveness.

In this sense, the forms of investigative reporting that are characteristic of literary journalism can be an asset to support tasks of applied research consisting of techniques such as interviewing, self-interviewing and oral history recording. These can be taken in this context as research strategies seeking to uncover personal narratives, tracing routes of interpretation which balance the individual and collective dimensions of memory (Keightley, Pickering & Allett, 2012; Assmann, 2010; Kansteiner, 2002; Halbwachs, 1980).

In particular, when memories come from experiences in which the environment is a fundamental concern, it is necessary to deploy techniques for interviewing and recording memories that should consider the environmental conditions and restraints in which the interviewees live. This context is often marked by the effects of climate change and the challenges to attain environmental sustainability.

This research project – proposed to the Université de Lorraine as part of its Recrutement des Enseignants-Chercheurs Invités, année universitaire 2018/2019 – will focus on literary journalism practices which can be studied as a valuable resource for the purpose of documenting personal accounts and testimonies concerning environmental sustainability challenges in countries which, like Brazil and many others in Europe and the Americas, adopt participatory systems of water governance. These are political structures comprising a multitude of social contexts in which individuals and communities develop a wealth of stories, memories and narratives about experiences of living in water scarcity, droughts and floods. This project takes this landscape as ground to be explored by interviewing techniques, memory and oral history records which may find, in the practices of literary journalism, a source of knowledge and inspiration.

This project proposes to make a contribution to the I.D.E.A. | Interdisciplinarity in English Studies research center, as the interdisciplinarity fostered by the studies of literary journalism can be found at the core of our proposal, particularly regarding studies written by scholars based in English-speaking countries focusing the live and work of English-speaking authors.

Memories of individuals and communities that participate in political structures of environmental governance constitute a rich repository of narratives and stories of engagement and adaptation to climate change in a context of ecological citizenship. However, that manner in which to access and record those memories, narratives and stories remains a challenge, both from a pragmatic point of view, in relation to oral history interviews and record strategies, and a conceptual point of view, in connection with the interfaces between the study of areas such as journalism and social sciences.

If literary journalism may, as a source of knowledge and practice, contribute to uncovering perspectives that inspire individuals and communities to engage with the transformations required in light of the effects of climate change, we propose to advance such contributions, which can be taken as strategies for deepening ecological citizenship.



Assmann, J. (2010). Communicative and cultural memory. In Nünning, A., Erll, A. A companion to cultural memory studies (pp. 109-118). Berlin: Gruyter.

Bak, J. S.; Reynolds, B. (eds.) (2011). Literary journalism across the globe: journalistic traditions and transnational influences. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press.

Halbwachs, M. (1980). The collective memory. New York: Harper.

Kansteiner, W. (2002). Finding meaning in memory: a methodological critique of collective memory studies. History and Theory, 41, 179-197.

Keightley, E., Pickering, M., Allett, N. (2012). The self-interview: a new method in social science research. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 15(6), 507-521.