Archive: ‘Oral History’



Oxford University Press Blog highlights Oral History Review article, ‘Managing Danger in Oral History Fieldwork’

Friday, November 10th, 2017


Following the publication of my latest Oral History Review article, ‘Managing danger in oral historical fieldwork,’ the Oral History Review team requested that I address some follow-up questions on the Oxford University Press blog. Over the past two weeks, these have been published as two separate entries. The first post, ‘Six questions to ask before you hit record,’ highlights three questions aimed at helping oral historians better identify potential areas of risk for participants, and three questions aimed at helping them identify resources within their respective communities that can help them maintain positive mental and physical health, particularly when working on difficult subject matter. For the second post, ‘On burnout, trauma, and self-care,’ Andrew Schaffer posed questions to me that addressed such topics as how the article was being received by oral historians given the tendency for discussions of practitioners’ mental and physical health to be relegated to corridor talks (rather than academic publications, for example), and what oral historians could do better in future to help support each other. It’s wonderful to see the article getting highlighted in this manner, and indeed to see so much interest in the topic of managing danger surrounding oral historical research, not only as it relates to interviewees, but for practitioners as well. I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation at the joint conference hosted by the Oral History Society and the Oral History Network of Ireland on ‘Dangerous oral histories: risks, responsibilities and rewards,’ in Belfast in June 2018.

New Book Review: Mobilizing Transnational Gender Politics in Post-Genocide Rwanda by Rirhandu Mageza-Barthel

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

The Journal of Modern African Studies has just published my latest book review on Rirhandu Mageza-Barthel’s Mobilizing Transational Gender Politics in Post-Genocide Rwanda. This book is essential reading for those individuals who are interested in gender equality practices and policies in Rwanda. It offers a nuanced middle-ground between popular media accounts that celebrate the nation for its impressive inclusion of women in politics–most notably, the fact that 64% of seats in Rwanda’s parliament are curently held by women making it a world leader on women’s representation in domestic politics–and academic accounts that warn that while Rwandan women elites are making notable progress, rural Rwandan women still face significant challenges in their everyday lives. Mageza-Barthel does this by bringing interviews with women political activists who were intimately involved in high-level negotiations with the international community and the Rwandan government into conversation with important shifts in international and domestic policies aimed at promoting gender equality. In the process, her analysis tells us much, not only about how integral these political actors were for influencing Rwanda’s current gender equality policies, but also how they were able to impact present-day norms supported by the United Nations and other international institutions, successfully challenging ‘women’s invisibility in theories of how politics is done’ (p.17).

 

 

New Book Review: Listening on the Edge edited by Mark Cave and Stephen Sloan

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

In advance of the next issue of Oral History Review, the journal has published my review of Mark Cave and Stephen Sloan’s new edited volume Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis (2014) online. To summarize, Listening on the Edge is essential reading for anyone engaged in the practice of oral history in conflict and post-conflict settings, and is particularly valuable for its ability to provoke readers to think through some of the particular ethical and methodological challenges of this kind of research, as well as the potential insights and benefits that it might produce. In the review, I provide a brief summary of each of the volume’s chapters, but this by no means does justice to their importance for the field, nor does it serve as an adequate substitute for a full and careful reading of the volume as a whole. Taken together, I argue that “Listening on the Edge advances the literature on the practice and ethics of crisis oral history by taking readers through the various negotiations that are often inherent in this work. Among its most important contributions, it offers insights on working with witnesses of traumatic events; the necessary distinctions between the often overlapping fields of oral history, psychology, and journalism; the dangers of vicarious trauma and other forms of emotional distress for the interviewer(s); and the necessity of bringing multiple experiences into conversation to reconstruct and comprehend how crises affect peoples’ lives. In doing so, the volume clearly demonstrates the many benefits that can emerge from applying oral history methods and theory to the study of crises, while simultaneously exploring the subfield’s potential pitfalls and limitations. That each chapter is grounded in interview excerpts, bringing interviewees’ voices into conversation with the oral historians’ analysis, is a particular strength of this volume.”

Oral History Review virtual issue celebrates 50th anniversary of the Oral History Association!

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

50thannivlogo

In honour of the Oral History Association’s 50th anniversary this year, the Oral History Review has published a special virtual issue containing the journal’s fifteen most influential articles since its inception in 1973, which taken together demonstrate the value of oral history. The editors—Kathryn Nasstrom, Troy Reeves, and Andrew Shaffer—have selected my 2011 article, “The limits of oral history: Ethics and methodology amid highly politicized research settings,” to be showcased alongside the work of such notable oral historians as Ronald Grele, Alex Haley, Linda Shopes, Alessandro Portelli, and Valerie Yow, among others. The virtual issue is now available to the public online free of charge until the end of 2016, and includes the following articles: (more…)

Call for papers: IAGS Panel on “Genocidal Symbolic Violence”

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

IAGS

Call for Papers: Panel on “Genocidal Symbolic Violence”

For submission to the IAGS Biennial Meeting, ‘Justice and the Prevention of Genocide’, 9 – 13 July 2017, Brisbane, Australia

Organizers: Dr Erin Jessee (Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde) and Dr. Annie Pohlman (The University of Queensland)

Since the 1990s, a growing range of scholarship within comparative genocide studies has analysed the role and function of various forms of excessive and often spectacular torture, mutilation and execution that have been observed during genocides around the world. Some of the earliest studies examined acts of ‘excessive’ violence (Feldman 1991; Malkki 1995; Sutton 1995; Taylor 1999; Boose, 2002) to consider how and why such acts were perceived to be necessary during genocide. These early studies gave rise to analyses of the culturally-specific ‘vivisectionist’ logic that is actively communicated through the extreme forms of violence inflicted upon the bodies of perceived enemies (Appadurai 1998), prompting scholars such as Jacques Semelin (2007) to question whether understanding the symbolic meaning inherent in ‘orgiastic violence’ is potentially ‘the key’ to understanding genocide and related mass atrocities in different settings. (more…)

 

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