Liminal Fiction: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Researching, Writing and Disseminating an Archival Novel about the Violent Past


Penny Claire Simpson


This article explores the concept of liminal fiction, a new literary genre that takes on the challenge of narrating human rights in the sphere of transitional justice. Liminal fiction makes porous the boundaries between literature, law, history, art, and the archive. Using the work of contemporary visual artists who explore the art of forensics, and ground-breaking research methodologies adopted by social and forensic anthropologists, this article analyses the idea of researching and fictionalising a new memory paradigm, one rooted in the visual imagery of disinterred remains. It suggests that establishing a creative synthesis between interdisciplinary research and writing a work of fiction is a means to open up new avenues for narrating the history of the missing. This is partly achieved through a re-configuration of the role of writer and reader as co-curators, charged with the task of shifting through a multi-layered narrative that links the exhumation of mass graves in Spain in the 2000s with experiences in the country's postwar diaspora and the 'Indignados' demonstrations and occupations of 2011. Further, it becomes possible to consider alternative methods of 'publication' and dissemination of a work of liminal fiction — part-archive, part-book, part-installation — in creative collaborations with 'new musuems of space and emotion.'**This refers to a term used by economist and campaigner Susie Symes to evoke the significance of memory sites such as 19 Princelet Street, London, where she is Chair of Trustees. 


Author Biography

Penny Claire Simpson, University of Essex

Penny Claire Simpson is a CHASE/AHRC funded postgraduate student in Creative Writing. Before joining the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex, she was awarded an MA in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights by the School of Law. Her research has developed out of her career as a journalist working with organisations such as the BBC and British Council. Her publications include two novels and a collection of short stories. She is also a recipient of an Arts Council of Wales New Writers Bursary and a Hawthorden Scholarship.


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