Emma González, Silence and Youth Testimony

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This paper use life narrative methods to analyse two public speeches of youth activist Emma González as examples of how youth testimony gains traction at times of cultural crisis. Drawing on the work of Leigh Gilmore, we ask, how did González become an ‘adequate witness’ at a time when the testimony of women and children, particularly those from racial and sexual minority groups, are so often ‘tainted’ or discredited in the public sphere? What role did the (en)acting of silence play in González’s testimony? We argue that González entered into the public sphere at a moment when such testimony was sought and when child subjects have particular cachet. González was able to draw on a plethora of recognizable methods, testimonial genres and literary traditions to gain a voice in a cultural landscape that was conducive to her narration; despite this, the reception of her voice has not always been positive. We draw attention to the role of the youth subject within testimonial networks and to a cultural context wherein such subjects are asked to be both knowing and innocent in speaking from experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages23
JournalWomen: A Cultural Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2020


  • youth activism
  • Testimony
  • Autobiography
  • silence
  • witnessing


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