We’re delighted to announce that Professor Margaretta Jolly, a co-investigator in the Connected Histories of the BBC project, has just been awarded the 2019 Hogan Prize. The prize is given to an ‘outstanding essay’ submitted to a special issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies.

Here, Professor Jolly offers a bit of the background to her award.

In an age of citizen journalism, popular memoir and oral history communities, we enjoy an incredible variety of personal life writing. But for every life story circulated, there is the question of how it will be sustained and inherited. This of course is at the heart of the CH-BBC project, whose aim is to preserve, connect and celebrate the personal stories of BBC staff for future generations.

Image with grateful thanks to Zed books; cover photograph  © Cyril Ruoso

My essay in the special issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies,Survival Writing: Autobiography versus Primatology in the Conservation Diaries of Alison Jolly’ offers an exploration of my mother Alison Jolly’s work as a primatologist of ring-tailed lemurs. I propose that my mother chose autobiographical modes to unsettle anthropomorphic and western perspectives, and to enhance conservation efforts in Madagascar. I arranged publication of her diaries posthumously, at her request and have found solace in this and in feminist cyborg scholar Donna Haraway’s ideas which interlink all species’ survival in the wake of the ‘anthropocene’.

The BBC’s ongoing commitments to documenting wildlife’s precarious and precious existence in the era when human activity threatens the very survival of the planet also brings comfort. Millions tuned in to watch David Attenborough’s transporting series Seven Worlds One Planet in 2019 and the flagship radio programme Costing the Earth offers ‘fresh ideas from the sharpest minds working towards a cleaner, greener planet’. But Attenborough asks: “The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”

Attenborough’s warning is clear: inheritance is increasingly a collective challenge, but that makes it no less personal.

Margaretta Jolly, June 2020.

Leave a Reply