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The Narrative Change Academy - Telling post-migrant-stories

What will narratives of post-migrant Muslim life in Europe look like if we choose new ways of thinking and stop (re)producing stereotypes? A new project by the Young Islam Conference (JIK) provides opportunities to answer that question.

A person is skating in Berlin in front of a monument

Narrative Change Academy © Julius Matuschik

Project description

Narrative Change Academy

The Narrative Change Academy offers a space for young Europeans to envision, create, and tell post-migrant stories of the variety and complexity of Muslim life throughout Europe. Twelve young people from different backgrounds and experiences between the ages of 18 and 27 from France, the United Kingdom, and Germany will develop a digital campaign to broaden the presence of nuanced inclusive narratives to shape a post-migrant European society. What will a digital campaign look like, if we choose new ways of thinking and stop (re)producing stereotypes? The campaign is accompanied by evaluations, publications, and roundtables with decision-makers. Learn more.

What is a narrative about yourself that you grew up with? Was it true? If not, when - and how - did you find out that it’s not true?
David Bakum, Narrative Change Academy Fellow

Narratives For A Change

A blog contribution by David Bakum

"I must’ve been about 14 years old when I first watched the film Tomboy by Céline Sciamma. I was curious about the main character, who seemed to shift between genders, while being confronted with assumptions and expectations from all sides. Today I know that this film must’ve been the first time that I had seen myself represented on screen, as a trans person. Now, I’m writing my bachelor’s thesis on Sciamma’s work, and how her films examine a new cinematic language through their queer narratives.

I have always believed in the power of stories, and if it wasn’t for creatives like Sciamma, who break false and limiting narratives by creating new and authentic ones, I wouldn’t be who I am today. It is my love for storytelling that has motivated me to become part of the Narrative Change Academy. As a fellow, I was given the opportunity to gain expert knowledge about what narratives are, how they can be created and what impact they can have.
 
Since last October, Jasemin, Kübra and I have been the core of the strategy team behind the academy and have gained academic and personal insights into narratives about Muslim people and culture in Germany, France and the UK. In two workshops and with the campaigning expertise of hope-based comms, as well as various inputs from other experts, we have created a concept for four workshops that will result in the rollout of a social media campaign and a closing event with political stakeholders in Brussels. Our shared motivation for the academy is to break out of toxic narratives around Muslim life in Europe, by countering them with our own narratives that speak for Muslim diversity and complexity. I’m happy that Jasemin, Kübra, and I have the same intention to be bold and revolutionary in our vision of a post-migrant society and are looking forward to sharing this energy with the participants of the academy.

Just as my favourite director Sciamma defines her own language in cinema, we can define our own narrative in a campaign. It could be in the form of a TikTok video that goes viral, a slogan that stirs a discussion, a meme that becomes common knowledge, or something completely different. While narratives don’t need to be true for people to believe them, we want to counter discriminatory narratives with positivity and authenticity. 

Narratives are used as cultural tools for world construction and are therefore important to make sense of the world. The power in the 
Narrative Change Academy will lie in our approach to give agency to the participants joining us. Together, we will tell our own stories that are rooted in the vision of a diverse post-migrant society where Muslim life and culture are celebrated.

People are more likely to resonate with stories that connect to their own backgrounds. What do we in the academy relate to? How do we relate to each other? And how can we relate to an audience that might not share the same values as us? 

As I am writing about a new language in filmmaking, I ask myself: What moves a film? Is it the movement of the camera? Is it the exchange of gazes? The choreography of visuals and sound, edited and placed in a way that creates an illusion? How can a film define its own way of storytelling? And, as I’m asking myself these questions, I realise how Narrative Change is asking the same: What is the language of a narrative? What moves a narrative? Is it the people creating it, the media duplicating it? In the coexistence of negative precursors, how can a unique narrative be told?

I’m looking forward to the start of the Narrative Change Academy, where I’m hoping to support and empower young Europeans to exercise agency over their own narrative."

The article was first published on Junge-Islam-Konferenz.de

A portrtait of David Bakum

David Bakum © privat