• Mostar bridge, Sarajevo
  • Victims of genocide, Nyamata memorial, Rwanda
  • Parade of coffins, Srebrenica, Bosnia
  • Mountain gorilla twins, Rwanda
  • Mosque, Sarajevo, Bosnia
  • Altar, Nyamata memorial, Rwanda
  • Remembering the dead, Srebrenica, Bosnia
  • Rural life, Rwanda
  • Victims of genocide, Srebrenica, Bosnia
  • Prisoners at work, Rwanda
  • Pigeon square, Sarajevo, Bosnia
  • VIctims of genocide, Ntarama, Rwanda

Now Online: Workshop Website for “Approaching Perpetrators: Ethnographic Insights on Ethics, Methodology, and Theory”

April 8th, 2014

Convicted genocidaires out on work detail in Rwanda

“Approaching Perpetrators: Ethnographic Insights on Ethics, Methodology and Theory,” is a three day workshop taking place at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia from May 14-16, 2014. Building upon a conversation initiated surrounding a panel at last year’s American Anthropology Association (AAA) meeting, participants are taking a nuanced approach to the personal, social, cultural, economic, political, and historical contexts through which people become perpetrators of violence, broadly defined. Participants will examine events from more subtle forms of everyday violence to large-scale genocides and related mass atrocities, as well as the politics of memory and history that influence transitioning and post-conflict communities’ responses to perpetrators’ actions. The following research questions will be addressed: What does the word “perpetrator” mean and how is it applied in different settings? What might ethnographic fieldwork among perpetrators look like? What are some of the particular ethical and methodological challenges of conducting fieldwork among perpetrators? And finally, how can engaging with perpetrators enhance existing anthropological theories regarding everyday violence and mass atrocities, and their aftermath?

*Funding for this workshop has been generously provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. Special thanks also goes out to Tim Shew and Tal Nitsán for helping to organize the workshop, and Marc Ellison for designing and maintaining the website.

For more information, please contact Dr. Erin Jessee at approachingperpetrators@gmail.com.

New (Joint) Book Review: Apprenticeship in Critical Ethnographic Practice / Returns to the Field: Multitemporal Research and Contemporary Anthropology

March 26th, 2014

The Oral History Review has just published my review of two new ethnography texts of relevance to oral historians: Jean Lave’s Apprenticeship in Critical Ethnographic Practice; and Signe Howell and Aud Talle’s edited volume Returns to the Field: Multitemporal Research and Contemporary Anthropology.

This book review highlights the ways in which these texts, while very much embedded in anthropological discourses, are relevant to the practice of oral history. That ethnography—the keystone of cultural anthropological fieldwork that relies upon “direct and sustained contact with human agents within the context of their daily lives (and cultures), watching what happens, listening to what is said, and asking questions” (Karen O’Reilly, Key Concepts in Ethnography [London: Sage Publications, Inc., 2009, 3, emphasis in the original])—can be used to enhance oral historical practice and analysis is by no means a new observation, as evidenced by the plethora of oral historians who regularly rely on ethnographic methods to supplement their research methodologies (for a recent example, see Anna Sheftel and Stacey Zembrzycki’s edited volume, Oral History Off the Record: Toward an Ethnography of Practice [New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013]).

Returns to the FieldIndeed, many of the contributions offered by Apprenticeships in Critical Ethnographic Practice and Returns to the Field will be familiar to oral historians, though the disciplinary language in which they are couched may be at times foreign. For example, oral historians have often contemplated the idea that research participants must be understood in relation to the wider temporal, historical, political, and social contexts in which their narratives are produced, as well as the idea that researchers and their participants collaborate or “share authority” to determine the final form and understanding of a story (Michael Frisch, A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History [Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990]). Where these texts can perhaps contribute to oral historical discourse is in their thorough documentation and analysis of the researcher’s personal, theoretical, and methodological trajectory in shaping the data that are collected and its subsequent analysis as informed by over a century of anthropological theory and practice. Furthermore, the various contributors discussed in this review also highlight that valuable insights can be gained by returning to the field—whether physically or intellectually—to reflect upon the inevitable shifts in the researcher’s intellectual transformation, disciplinary trends, and even popular understandings of key events and narratives that have been documented.

For more information, please access the complete review.

Times Higher Education Exchange on Conducting Research in Rwanda

January 2nd, 2014


There’s a timely conversation taking place in the pages of the Times Higher Education regarding whether foreign researchers must practice self-censorship in order to successfully conduct research in Rwanda, particularly when related to politically charged subject matter. The conversation was initiated by Phil Clark on November 28, 2013, who posed the question: Must academics researching authoritarian regimes self-censor? In this feature, Clark argues that it is possible to conduct research in Rwanda if the researcher in question is “discreet, patient and respectful in the field” and builds “close relationships with local respondents, researchers and (where possible) government officials.” He concludes that those researchers who have met with difficulties while doing research in Rwanda have likely “been bombastic or hectoring during their research, belligerently ‘speaking truth to power,’” and that these negative experiences should not be used to dissuade younger generations of researchers from pursuing research in Rwanda. Read the rest of this entry »

New position with the Scottish Oral History Centre, The University of Strathclyde

November 4th, 2013


Scottish Oral HIstory Centre

This October, I’ve moved on to a permanent lecturer (assistant professor) position with the Scottish Oral History Centre and Department of History at the University of Strathclyde. Going forward, I’ll be maintaining my current research on post-conflict Rwanda and Uganda, but also adding regular teaching and administrative responsibilities, and supervising students. In particular, I’m looking forward to co-teaching a module on Oral History Methods and Theory with Angela Bartie starting in January 2014. I’ll also be designing special topics on The History of Genocide since 1915 and Oral History and Digital Media. Read the rest of this entry »

August 28th, 2013

Call for Papers

Democratizing history in conflicted and post-conflict settings


Thematic panel for the

International Oral History Association Conference

July 9-12, 2014

Barcelona, Spain


Deadline: September 5, 2013 to meet the IOHA’s September 15th deadline

Organizers: Catherine Baker, University of Hull, UK & Erin Jessee, University of British Columbia, Canada Read the rest of this entry »


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