ESREA – European Society for Research on the Education of Adults Life History and Biography Network: ‘Artful language and narratives of adult learning’

The 27th conference will in 2019 be held in Bergen, at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Campus Kronstad. The conference will take place on Thursday 28th February to Sunday 3rd March 2019.

About the network

The Life History and Biography Network of ESREAfirst met in Geneva in 1993 and has grown into a lively forum for debate. It attracts significant numbers of researchers, including doctoral students, from a wide range of different disciplinary backgrounds, and members come from every corner of Europe, and beyond. Within adult education and lifelong learning, life history and biographical approaches vary considerably, and our conferences are based on recognition and celebration of this diversity; we have sought to create spaces for dialogue, demonstration, reflexivity and discovery.

The Network holds an annual conference - hosted by one of our European members - choosing each year a new theme that builds on the discussions during the previous year. 

The Life History and Biography Network

For 25 years since its first meeting in Geneva, ESREA’s Life History and Biography Network (LHBN) has 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. Our conferences are based on the recognition and celebration of the diversity of methods, approaches and epistemologies in biographical research. And our aim is to create spaces for dialogue, reflexivity and discovery, in order to sustain trustful collaboration, publications and collaborative research projects.


The 2019 Conference Theme

It is hard to imagine a narrative that is not made up from language and we recognise that the success of language is in its ability to construct meaningful, illuminating stories. Narratives that go beyond the syntactic rules of structure and formal grammar and engage and enliven the semantics and, maybe, the artfulness of being human. We want to explore the role of language in relation to being human and in adult learning, including its potential breadth and depth, and its possible artfulness in encompassing personal, social, professional and environmental struggles.

Language can provide a potentially safe and creative space from which to explore and to be playful, including to imagine what could yet be realised. Language allows us to move beyond or between the binaries of the internal/external, formal/informal, body/affect and to question what is real and to experience the struggle to know.

Language has a dark side, too: it can be reductive and used to disrupt the self and the other. It can be shaped by the coloniser and the powerful. It may be used to dominate individuals, societies, cultures, and at a global level for global corporations to manipulate, control and influence mass opinion and behaviour.

The politics of language can offer freedom or obfuscate and keep others ‘out’, including the languages of science, the academy and even extremist politics. There is violence as well as possibility inherent in our use of language.

The conference can question how language has emerged, evolved and died, in different contexts, (such as the language of popular or liberal education?) and what this may mean for adult learners. And how new languages of ‘learnification’ sustain the neoliberal agenda.

Language is a living thing that helps create families, societies, disciplines and popular movements. It can encompass the dialectic movement between one and another, between hope and despair, between understanding and denial. Language can identify us by our ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, or political leanings. Language can also fall short and fail to embrace the complexity and illusive quality of lived experience, including its spiritual dimensions. There is also language beyond words: in music, dance, image and artfulness.

Finally, we must learn many new languages, may be the language of social media and ‘likeable’ friends and distant dismissive Tweets. The variety of languages has to be attended to – learnt, if necessary. Languages can be sung, shouted and expressed through the body. There is also the language of silence, of being still, of being meditative which can allow new language to emerge. It is also through language that we can explore narratives of content and discontent.

In the context of the Network, language, and whose language is used, has been a constant issue. This includes what is lost in translation, or the inadequacy of someone else’s language to do justice to our own or others’ experience. And when we use language in our research and writing, who are we? Poets, scientists, novelists and or whatever; and who is it that we write about: what language or discursive regimes shape our encounters with the humanity of the other as well as ourselves? Is there a post-humanist language that can attune us more sensitively to the non-human world and the necessity of interdependence?

Conference languages

ESREA's language policy is inclusive. Abstracts for the peer-review process may be in English or French. Papers and presentations will be welcome in French as well as English. Where possible, a short (1000-1500 word) summary in English should be provided.

For French, German, Italian speakers (and for all others): slides in English or bilingual are recommended. Professional translation is not provided during the conference, instead we will use the linguistic skills of colleagues to facilitate dialogue. Tolerance, respect, mutual support and curiosity will do the rest. It is important to notice that speakers requiring some element of translation or explanation must accept that they can say less in the allotted time: they should plan for this, perhaps by providing essential information in the form of a hand-out, for example.


If you book a hotel near to Bergen City Station, your travel time to the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences campus, by light train, will be about 10 minutes. 

We do not have a specific conference hotel, but recommend these options:

Scandic Byparken

Contact person: Katrine

The Hotel is close to Torgallmeninngen square, Grieghallen concert hall and the old wharf Bryggen. 

Single rooms: 1159 NOK

Double rooms: 1359 NOK

Zander K/Terminus

The hotel is close to the train station, bus station and city centre. 

Single rooms: 920 NOK

Double rooms: 1120 NOK

Magic hotel Solheimsviken

Contact person: Kaja/Veronica

Magic Hotel Solheimsviken is located 3 minutes from light rail stop Danmarksplass, which is the stop before Kronstad, near Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. If you choose to walk, it will approximately take 20 minutes. The hotel is 30 minutes away from the city centre in walking distance, and a short trip away in Bergen light rail. 

Prices will vary. When ordering you must specify the order code «HVL» to get the 25 percent off offer.

Bergen Vandrerhjem – Montana

Bergen Vandrerhjem Montana is a hostel located 30 minutes from the campus by walking, and a 50 minutes walk from Bergen city centre. The local bus Montana (nr 12) goes from Bergen bus station at platform B. The bus ride takes 15 minutes. 

Single rooms: 600 NOK

Double rooms: 775 NOK

When ordering you must specify the order code "Universitet og høgskoleavtalen” (UH-avtalen) and «HVL» to get the right price. 

Pre-conference event

Pre-conference «Bergen by boots»,Thursday 28nd of February 10 am-3pm

Welcome to Bergen!

Welcome to this old and beautiful city, the second largest in Norway, by the West coast, surrounded by seven mountains. What languages do we find in Bergen? What does this city smell like? Using all our senses: What do we see, feel, hear – how do we listen to the places.

The pre-conference invite you to explore Bergen, with all your senses. The famous mystery author Gunnar Staalesen will guide us into the history of Bergen: While strolling along the historic buildings, we have several surprises along the route that we believe will awaken our senses and curiosity. 

The preconference is NOK 600,-.

We will visit the famous Bryggen listed in World Heritage List. Our lunch will be held in the old house below Strange Stiftelse, included a local film from one of the mountains: «Up Stoltzen with aunt Ragna» by Inger Helen Midtgård.

The foundation's poorhouse for women was founded in 1609 by councilor Strange Jørgensen, and the house has been rebuilt several times. The present building was erected in 1751.

Be welcome to walk the city of Bergen before we cross the innermost part of the fjord, in a local ferry, with old and new colleges! See you in Bergen, in front of The Maria Church!

Place to show up: Mariakirken, Bergen/ The Church of Maria from 1130-1170 a.c. with its two towers, located at the end of Bryggen, address: Dreggsallmenningen, next to SAS Royal Bryggen hotel.

Time to show up: 10 am

Contactperson: Berit Bareksten, cellphone 0047 47961975

Photo Credit: VisitBergen. Bergen Reiselivslag / Erik Wassenaar. Bergen Reiselivslag / Girish Chouhan. /Fortidsminneforeningen.

The conference dinner

The dinner will be held at Nøsteboden in Nøstegaten 32. Nøsteboden is a uniqe and protected historical building. It is the last remaining boathouse in Nøstet, originally from around 1645. 

The dinner is NOK 750,- pr. person.

Click here to read more about Nøsteboden. 

Programme and paper sessions

The formal conference starts late afternoon Thursday 28th February, ends at noon Sunday 3rd March.

See full program.

Book of Abstracts



335 € incl. 25% VAT - Doctoral Students

365 € incl. 25% VAT - ESREA Member

396 € incl. 25% VAT - Non ESREA member

NB: No refund of conference payment can be done after Wednesday the 20th of February. 

Who are we?

The conference is arranged on behalf of the research group Negotiating Narratives at the Faculty of Education, Arts and Sports and the research group Community Work at the Faculty of Health, Centre for Care Research (HVL) and Social Sciences at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL).

Members of the committee are: Jan Kåre Breivik, Mette Bøe Lyngstad, Vibeke Solbue, Berit Bareksten, Hilde Haaland-Kramer and Yvonne Wang.

For further information, please write to:

Scientific comittee

Hazel Wright, Herve Breton, Freema Elbaz-Luwisch, Fergal Thomasen Finnegan, José Gonzalez Monteagudo, Barbara Merrill, Robert Evans, Laura Mazzoli Smith, Mette Bøe Lyngstad, Berit Bareksten, Michel Alhadeff-Jones and Jan Kåre Breivik.

Members of the Scientific Committee will come from Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Norway and the United Kingdom; all are committed to facilitate communication across the different languages, to create a learning inclusive community and to offer good critical space for early as well as expert researchers.


The conference will be held at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences campus Bergen. This campus is situated close to the Bergen light rail stop Kronstad, easily accessible from the centre of Bergen.

Bergen is located in western Norway, with direct flight from most of the bigger airports in Europe – London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen. HVL is located at Kronstad, easily connected with light-rail from downtown.

How to get to Bergen

Vibeke Solbue