Storytelling for Social and Planetary Change – A Pachaysana / Counterpoint Webinar

By Grace Logan, Daniel Bryan, Whitney A. Bauman, and Kocku von Stuckrad

Storytelling is essential to what it means to be human. The process of knowing involves storytelling, and our value systems that determine what is just or unjust are all influenced by the stories we tell ourselves. In addition, human beings exist in a planetary context with many other entities (species, rivers, glaciers, oceans) that have a “story” to tell and that are parts of our own stories. Finally, the power of story and re-narration helps to rethink and create new communities, as we have seen with the MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and Fridays for Future movements. Counterpoint, in collaboration with The Pachaysana Institute, is offering a 4-part online workshop series that focuses on storytelling and its relationship to knowledge, justice, healing, and the creation of new possible futures for the planetary community.

Over the month of October, we’ll meet every Wednesday to discuss the various dimensions of this theme with internationally renowned experts from various professions and disciplines. After an introductory meeting on 7 October, the workshop series will focus on storytelling and its relationship to knowledge, justice, healing, and the creation of new possible futures for the planetary community. Each day will consist of a panel discussion on a specific topic, followed by an interactive workshop with all participants.

Confirmed speakers include: Hector Aristizábal, Carol Wayne White, David Abram, Juan Sanchez, David George Haskell, Polly O. Walker, Bronte Velez, Alexandra Cornelius, and Teya Brooks Pribac.

Knowing (14 October)

One way to think about how we know about the world in which we live is through storytelling. When we first get to know a person, place, thing, or any other entity, we often start by listening to a story. The same happens when nonhuman persons meet, or when we meet nonhuman actors ourselves. It is also true of places, ideas, and just about anything else we get to know. Stories help us attune to our shifting selves and the bodies around us to which we are connected. Stories are always ongoing and open-ended, and they are all interpreted differently by their listeners. In a word, stories are contextual. Our raced, gendered, sexed, and classed bodies all provide us with different lenses on the world through which we tell our own stories. For Indigenous peoples across the world, storytelling is the primary means for knowledge transmission.

This workshop will focus on the art of storytelling as it pertains to human knowing. It will include academics, artists, writers, and activists that engage the art of story as knowledge. It will also provide participants with a chance to think about their own stories in relationship to planetary others, and to explore new ways of “storying” the world.

Justice and Healing (21 October)

Ways of knowing and action are inextricably linked together. Stories matter for the justification of actions; in other words, stories always include notions of ethics, justice, and healing. It is important to listen to the ways in which many different bodies are affected by different narratives and stories in order for justice and healing to occur. Modern, Western, colonial stories, for instance, have often not been good for black and brown bodies, female bodies, and the bodies of the rest of the natural world. Pan-Indigenous movements, the Occupy Wallstreet movement, farmers protests around the world, MeToo, Black Lives Matter, Fridays for Future, and many more are calling out the damaging ways in which colonial, sexist, racist, and anthropocentric stories harm many bodies around the planet. The airing of these stories is centered on healing and justice. They point out the distortions that exist because of extant stories that shape unjust human-human and human-earth relations. And, they demand that new stories be told; stories which aim toward the flourishing of the multiple bodies that make up the planetary community.

This section of the workshop will focus on the telling of some of these stories and how these stories can help heal the broken planet.

Re-narrating (28 October)

In order to change the planet, we also need new stories. As Ursula K. Le Guin argued, one of the things the world needs most right now is more speculative fiction. This genre, though not only this genre, helps us to think outside of our regular narratives and habits of thinking about things that seem “out of this world” from the present. So, we need people writing such speculative stories. However, we also need people questioning the names of places, peoples, and things. Why do we narrate the present moment as “the Anthropocene”? Why do we venerate old confederate slave supporters and the early colonists who helped to commit genocide on the American continents? What type of memorials might help us re-member and re-narrate our present in ways that take into account multiple voices, and not just the voices of the colonizing ‘victors’? Furthermore, how do we tell more stories that write human beings back into the rest of the planetary community, rather than making human beings the exceptions to the rest of the natural world?

This series of workshops is co-sponsored by The Pachayasana Institute, Counterpoint: Navigating Knowledge, The Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab at Florida International University, the Religious Studies Department at Florida International University, as well as the Department of English at Florida International University.

Registration is free of charge. For more detailed information and for registration, please check back on this website, which will be updated regularly.


Daniel Bryan is an educator, activist, and artist. He is the co-founder and Director of the Pachaysana Institute, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to community-based, fair-trade, intercultural education programs in Ecuador.

Grace Logan was a graduate of Pachaysana’s Rehearsing Change program in 2017 and is now Pachaysana’s Fellow. She has coordinated community-based education programs, Participatory Action Research projects and led Pachaysana’s international outreach department.

Whitney A. Bauman is one of the co-founders and co-directors of Counterpoint: Navigating Knowledge, and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Florida International University. He is the co-author (with Kevin O’Brien) of Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty: Wrestling with Wicked Problems (Routledge 2019), and Religion and Ecology: Developing A Planetary Ethic (Columbia University Press, 2014).

Kocku von Stuckrad is one of the co-founders and co-directors of Counterpoint: Navigating Knowledge. As a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Groningen (Netherlands), he works on the cultural history of religion, science, and philosophy in Europe. He lives in Berlin. A revised English version of his recent German book about the topic of this blog post will be published as The Soul in the Twentieth Century: Insights in Psychology, Science, Nature, Philosophy, Spirituality, and Politics from Europe and America by Columbia University Press by the end of 2020.

Photo credit: © The Pachaysana Institute 2020

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