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Blog: International Committee reflections on 2013 Annual Meeting

By Leslie McCartney, International Committee Web Liaison

Over the next couple of months we will feature comments from recipients of this year’s OHA scholarships as designated by the Oral History Association’s International Committee.  This month we feature comments by:

Peili Yin, China (Peking University, China)

Paper Title: Review on Mainland China Research of Oral History in Libraries

Abstract:  As far as Mainland China is concerned, the research of oral history in libraries is still at its beginning stage. Until now, there still have not been any books published, while the number of published articles is also relatively less, only 41.
In the year 2000, the first article was published in the Library Journal Shanghai Library.  Compared to America, it’s more than 30 years later must be noted that a large amount of articles (take the percentage of 43.9%) were written by librarians of Shantou University Library, which is the first library in Mainland China carry out oral history with the support of Li Ka Shing Foundation.
The most important is that the research theme is also very narrow.  Almost half of the articles were on the importance and feasibility of oral history in libraries.  The oral history management problems especially cataloging, digitizing, laws and ethics were little discussed.  Researchers and librarians should pay more and more attention to them.

Peili’s Comments:
It’s really a pleasant experience for a student from China to attend the OHA. Even today, I still feel unrealistic for having made such a successful presentation. It should be a dream, but it really came true.
I’m happy to see that through my presentation, oral history in libraries of Mainland China was introduced which also aroused the interest of foreign scholars and practitioners. It was indeed a good chance to exchange and interact from a global view.
The colorful kinds of workshops, roundtables and sessions enriched my knowledge of oral history, especially in the law issue and cataloguing which is still very weak in Mainland China.
For a beginner in oral history, it’s so lucky to meet so many outstanding scholars, such as Donald Ritchie, John A. Neuenschwander and Nancy Mackay. Their books are very popular in China.   After all, I enjoy the journey. And now I’m a member of OHA.

Haweiya Egeh, (Wood Green Community Services, Toronto, Canada)

Paper Title:  Forced Migration and Settlement:  A History of the Somali community in Toronto, Canada

Abstract:  The Somali community is one that is maturing within Canada and the city of Toronto.  After about 20 years in Canada, I believe the time is right to document the immigration and settlement experience of the 1st generation, as well as the different yet similar experiences of the youth (2nd generation Canadians).  This is especially important in Toronto given that there has been a glut of violent incidents with young Somali men which have cast a negative light on the community and has led to questions as to why this is happening.  Is it connected to the initial settlement of these youth’s family 20+ years ago?  Is it related to various systemic failures (i.e. schools, prison system, family, etc.)?  Is there an intergenerational culture clash occurring (“back home” values vs. “Western” values)?  Can it be related to religion and the Islamaphobia that many Somali-Canadians, young and old, feel stigmatized and alienated by?  These are all questions that this project can begin to answer and I believe these answers are of interest to all Somali communities, Muslim communities and African/Caribbean communities around the globe.

Haweiya’s Comments:
At the most recent Oral History Association Conference, I had the honour of presenting my project on the Somali-Canadian community in Toronto.  The main focus of this project is the first generation of Somali Canadians in Toronto and their migration and settlement experience.  What makes this documenting unique is the fact that this cohort of Somali newcomers was the first in Toronto and indeed Canada.  Understanding their experience and history is akin to understanding the beginnings of the Somali-Canadian community, which has grown significantly in the last over 20 years.
Another component of this project will be to document the experiences of young Somali-Canadians, or the second generation, and compare their Canadian experience to their parents’.  Presenting this project to participants of the conference was a great experience.  Listeners were engaged during the presentation and very insightful during the question and answer period.
Generally, as a first time attendant of the Oral History Conference, I was impressed by the quality of the projects and studies being presented as well as the variety.  I particularly enjoyed connecting with other researchers at the conference as well as visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.  It was a pleasure attending and learning at the conference and I hope to attend again very soon!  Thank you to the Oral History Association for their generosity and making it possible for me to continue to learn more about the discipline and enhance my work in the future as a result.

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