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Research Biografie Instituut



Different Lives. Global Perspectives on Biography in Public Cultures and Societies

September 19-21, 2018

Between September 19 and 21 2018, BIO, the Biography Institute, and the Biography Society will host a conference that will take place in Groningen, the Netherlands. Over the course of these three days, we are going to take a look beyond our own borders and delve deeper into the question of how the art of biography is practiced in other parts of the world. Biographers from different continents will gather to examine the ways in which their foreign colleagues practice their craft and discuss the cultural perspectives that guide biographers in their approach to the infinite complexity of the other.

We would like to know how biography can contribute to a better understanding of differences between societies and cultures. How can biographers from different parts of the world learn from each other, without becoming all the same? For this purpose we call on our speakers to inform us about the history and the state of the art concerning biography in their own countries. By doing so, speakers can show how in their cultural background biography functions as a truly public genre, featuring specific societal issues and opinion-making.

The conference will be held at the Doopsgezinde Kerk in Groningen, in the middle of the city center, next to your hotel, restaurants and bars. The church building used to be a wooden clandestine church, hidden from the streets, as the Mennonites were not allowed to worship openly in public spaces at the time it was built, in the 1810s.

Conference venue
Conference venue

With a mix of panel, roundtable, and public discussions, all featuring speakers from different parts of the world, this conference is designed to present the state of the art of biography from a wealth of different perspectives. Richard Holmes has agreed to provide the keynote lecture for this conference. Carl Rollyson will also provide a lecture, and Jack A. Farrell chairs a roundtable discussion on the political impact of the biography, the institutions and status of the biographer, the biopic, the categories of the biography (type of book, collection, paratexts, graphic novels), biography and orality.

On Wednesday September 19, Nigel Hamilton will host a masterclass for young biographers working on their first books. Additionally, he has agreed to open the conference with a lecture, after which we are all invited to have drinks at the Doopsgezinde Kerk.

For those who are interested to see what Groningen and the Netherlands have to offer, we have organized two cultural trips on Wednesday. At GRID, the museum of Graphic Arts in the city center, you can get a tour of Dutch historic printing presses and binderies. Or you could visit the memorial center and grounds of Camp Westerbork, an exhibition depicting the Netherlands during World War II, focusing on the persecution of the Jews. You can express your interest in visiting one of these sites while booking your tickets.

If you require assistance in booking your hotel or arranging your travels, you can reach the board in Groningen at You can buy early bird tickets until June 1 for 40 euros, or full-priced tickets for 60 euros afterwards. If you would like to join the conference dinner, you can reserve a place while booking for 60 euros. We will send out more information on booking as soon as possible.

Make sure to follow our event on Facebook: Different Lives Conference.


  • The Dutch weekly HP/ De Tijd published a feature about the conference.
  • Vrij Nederland, the Dutch newspaper, published Nigel Hamilton's opening lecture with an introduction by Jeroen Vullings
  • Nick Weber was interviewed on occasion of his PhD defense during the conference.
  • Carl Rollyson posted a reaction on Facebook
  • Laura van Hasselt (University of Amsterdam) wrote a blog on Nigel Hamilton's masterclass

Conference report



Day 0, September 19, 2018, Doopsgezinde Kerk


Masterclass Nigel Hamilton, 15 young biographers (not published yet) from Belgium, France, Canada, the Netherlands and Iran


Public lecture by Nigel Hamilton, for the Friends of the Academic Heritage in Groningen, during which he will officially open the conference. The title of the lecture is: ‘Truth, Lies and fake truth. The future of Biography’.

17:30-18:30 Reception (offered by Groningen Congres Bureau)

Day 1, September 20, 2018, Doopsgezinde Kerk

10.00 Opening conference by Hans Renders and Joanny Moulin

10.15 – 11.15: Panel 1, chaired by David Veltman

  • Carl Rollyson (US)
  • Evgeniya Petrova (Russia)
  • Joanny Moulin (France)

11.30 – 12.30: Panel 2, chaired by Joanny Moulin

  • Elsbeth Etty (the Netherlands)
  • Daniel Meister (Canada)
  • Jade Nguyen (Vietnam)

12.45-14.00 Dissertation defense ceremony of Nick Weber, at Academy Building

14.30 – 16.00: Roundtable discussion, chaired by Jack A. Farrell. Topics: the political impact of the biography, the institutions and status of the biographer, the biopic, the categories of the biography (type of book, collection, paratexts, graphic novels), biography and orality.

  • Lindie Koorts (South Africa)
  • Doug Munro (Australia)
  • Étienne Naveau (Indonesia)
  • María Jesús González (Spain)
  • Yannick Gouchan (Italy)

16.00 – 17.00: Keynote speech by Richard Holmes

17.30 – 18.30 Drinks

Day 2: September 21, 2018, Doopsgezinde Kerk

10.15 – 11.15: Panel 3, chaired by Madelon Franssen

  • Sahar Vahdati Hosseinian (Iran)
  • Doug Munro (Australia)
  • María Jesús González (Spain)

11.30 – 12.30: Roundtable discussion, chaired by Hans Renders . Topics: biography and censorship, biography and the history of the book, the critical reception of the biography, biography and psychology, biography and history.

  • David Veltman (the Netherlands)
  • Carl Rollyson (US)
  • Daniel Meister (Canada)
  • Elsbeth Etty (the Netherlands)
  • Stefano Magni (Italy)

14.00 – 14.30: Interview with the winner of the Dutch Biography Prize

14.30 –15.45: Panel 4, chaired by Nigel Hamilton

  • Lindie Koorts (South Africa)
  • Yannick Gouchan (Italy)
  • Etienne Naveau (Indonesia)
  • Wilhelm Hemecker (Austria)

16.00 – 16.45: Public discussion, chaired by Hans Renders

18.00 Conferencedinner at Humphrey's Restaurant

Colloquium Waar we heen gaan, Jelle zal wel zien. The Zijlstra administration (1966-1967) after 50 years.

22 November 2016

Colloquium 10 over Rood 50 jaar later. The newspapers Volkskrant, Nederlands Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad and Dagblad van het Noorden reported on this colloquium. In the magazine Tijd & Taak an article was published on this congress and on the book Zeventig jaar PvdA by Gerrit Voerman en Frans Becker.

3 October 2016

29 & 30 March 2012


Workshop Presidential Biography

29 April 2016

Participating in the City: Microhistory and the Picaresque Novel

Conference Political Biographies

15 December 2010

Biography & Pedagogy

18 & 19 November 2010, in collaboration with The National Museum of Education


International Congress of Historical Sciences

22-28 August 2010, Amsterdam


7th Biennial International Auto/Biography Association Conference

28 June - 1 July 2010, Universiteit van Sussex

The Religious factor in Biography

19 & 20 November 2009, Groningen


Amongst Engineers

15 May 2009, Groningen

Volume | Brochure

Charisma and emergent social movements

6 & 7th of November 2008, Groningen

Volume | Brochure

The art collector: between philanthropy and self-glorification

5 & 6th of June 2008, Groningen

De Koloniale Biografie

29 & 30th of March 2007, Groningen

Volume |

De Ondernemersbiografie

10th of November 2006, Amsterdam

Volume | Brochure

Privé in de Politieke Biografie

24th of March 2006, Groningen

Volume |

Biografie Internationaal

30th of September 2005


Psychologie & Biografie

27th of May 2005, Groningen

Volume | Brochure

Necrologie & Biografie

9 & 10th of March 2005, Groningen

Volume | Brochure

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