Tag: ‘oral history’

Official Launch: Special issue of Oral History Forum d’histoire orale on “Confronting Mass Atrocities,” co-edited by Erin Jessee and Annie Pohlman

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

cover_issue_46_en_USThis morning, the Oral History Forum d’histoire orale launched its special issue on “Confronting Mass Atrocities,” co-edited by myself and Annie Pohlman. The special issue is being published online on a rolling basis and access is free. Thus far, it includes Introduction – Confronting Mass Atrocities in Oral Historical Practice by Annie and I, which explains the impetus for the special issue and provides a brief summary of the different contributions. Next, John Roosa‘s article Who Knows? Oral History Methods in the Study of the Massacres of 1965-66 in Indonesia assesses the contributions made by oral historians over the past two decades to our understanding of the massacres of Leftists in Indonesia following a military coup in October 1965. Then, Annie Pohlman considers the risks involved in carrying out oral history research on these events in present-day Indonesia in Telling Stories about Torture in Indonesia: Managing Risk in a Culture of Impunity. We’ve also included two book reviews. Catherine Baker evaluates Jenny Edkin’s Missing: Persons and Politics, which brings together oral historical and archived narratives related to the impact of missing persons’ disappeared in the course of war and mass atrocities, as well as everyday events, on surviving family members and friends. Sarah Watkins then reviews Jennie Burnet’s Genocide lives in us: Women, memory and silence in Rwanda, a rare and timely ethnographic study on post-genocide Rwanda. (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.

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…)

New publication: The Limits of Oral History

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

This morning, I received a copy of the new issue of the Oral History Review, which contains my first publication from my doctoral dissertation. My paper, “The Limits of Oral History: Ethics and Methodology Amid Highly Politicized Research Settings” is intended to promote discussion among oral historians about the distinct theoretical, ethical and methodological challenges that emerge when working in highly politicized research settings – those in which government seek to aggressively control sociopolitical discourses surrounding recent conflicts to prevent renewed violence and/or legitimize their claim to power. Whereas most oral historians celebrate their discipline for its humanizing potential and its ability to democratize history by engaging with the lived experiences of ordinary civilians, I argue that greater discussion is needed to identify instances in which oral historical methods prove to be impossible, politically inappropriate or even dangerous. This is a particularly timely conversation given the Oral History Association’s emerging interest in promoting oral historical research on “emerging crises.” (more…)


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