Tag: ‘methodology’

Wednesday, 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 (more…)

Oral History Association annual meeting programme now available online!

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Oral History Association

The full programme for the upcoming Oral History Association annual meeting is now available online, and I thrilled to report that the panel I’ve co-organized with Sarah Watkins on “Oral Historical Research in Rwanda: Intergenerational, Cross-Cultural Perspectives” has been accepted, and Sean Field of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town in South Africa will be serving as our commentator and chair. In addition, I’m serving as a discussant on Julie Levitt’s fascinating panel on “The effects of interviewing on the interviewer.” Both panels should make for some fascinating conversations!

Conference Presentation: Digital Media and Dangerous Narratives

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

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This morning, I presented (via skype, unfortunately) at the conference “Digital Testimonies on War and Trauma” hosted by Erasmus University in Rotterdam. It promises to be a fascinating event where oral historians who work among conflicted or transitional communities can share their experiences applying digital media tools to a range of issues, with a particular focus on the Western Balkan region. My paper was titled “Digital Media and Dangerous Narratives: The Case of Post-Genocide Rwanda.”

Abstract: Digital media, broadly defined, is rapidly gaining currency among oral historians and related practitioners as a convenient and provocative means of analyzing and disseminating the results of our research. It allows oral historians to move beyond written transcripts to interact with audio and video materials, allowing for a deeper understanding of the metadata – changes in tone, rhythm of speech, body language, and so on – that surrounds what is said within the interview space. It also has enormous potential to make oral histories accessible to a wide audience, particularly in developed nations. However, this paper argues that there are limitations to the use of digital media surrounding settings of chronic insecurity. Drawing upon five years of experience in post-genocide Rwanda, I argue that while digital media can be invaluable during analysis, when faced with a highly politicized research setting, oral historians must exercise caution. During fieldwork, oral historians must be cognizant of government surveillance and interference, particularly when noticeable amounts of digital audio and video equipment is involved. In disseminating outcomes, meanwhile, additional protocol may need to be introduced to protect participants’ identities. And finally, once the outcomes of the project have been disseminated, the enhanced accessibility and visibility of digital media can introduce obstacles toward future fieldwork. This paper suggests possible solutions to these ethical and methodological issues, but also asks oral historians to consider circumstances in which the use of digital media is inappropriate or unethical.

New publication: Conducting Fieldwork in Rwanda

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

The new issue of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies has just been released, and includes my research note on “Conducting Fieldwork in Rwanda.” This piece is a response to a common question posed by graduate students and first time researchers to Rwanda: How does someone go about acquiring formal government approval to conduct fieldwork?

The process of applying for government permission to conduct fieldwork in Rwanda is lengthy and expensive, and takes place independent of any institutional review researchers and graduate students might complete at their host institutions. My fieldnote attempts to concisely outline the process, from acquiring a country partner, to passing through the Rwanda National Ethics Committee approval process, to acquiring the final research permit from the Ministry of Education. Depending on the research question being investigated, researchers may also be required to apply for additional letters of support from other Rwanda-based agencies, such as the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Health.

Nonetheless, this fieldnote contains the basic information researchers will need to get the process started, as well as appendices containing links to relevant websites and contacts within the Rwandan government. The information is up-to-date as of June 2012, and will hopefully promote more ethical and collaborative research projects in Rwanda.

Friday, May 11th, 2012


Oral History Forum d’histoire orale Spring 2013 Special Issue

“Confronting Mass Atrocities”

In recent years, oral historians and related practitioners have be increasingly called upon to apply their expertise to contemporary human rights challenges around the world. Testimony and life histories have emerged as an essential means of documenting and commemorating mass atrocities, such as genocide and crimes against humanity. But before oral historians launch themselves headlong into this relatively new area of research, certain questions should be addressed: What are the benefits and limitations inherent in applying oral history methods and theory in such settings? How well can existing best practices in the field be adapted to settings of conflict? And to what end? What are oral historians poised to contribute to understandings of mass atrocities? (more…)


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