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International Committee Blog

Oral History Association International Scholarships

Sixteen international scholarship applications were received this year and the decisions on which to fund were very challenging for the committee. In the end, five scholarships were awarded:

Joana Craveiro, Portugal

Marella Hoffman, UK

Meera Anna Oommen, India

Annie Pohlman, Australia

Samantha Prendergast, Australia

Congratulations to you all! Your attendance and presentations at the Annual Meeting will indeed be of great interest to those in attendance.

Below are the abstracts of three of the awardees papers/presentations. This month we feature Joana Craveiro, Portugal, Marella Hoffman, UK and Meera Anna Oommen, India. Last month we featured Annie Pohlman and Samantha Prendergast, both of Australia.

Joana Craveiro, Portugal

ROUNDTABLE: Approaches to Oral History in Latin America, Portugal, and Spain

The Palgrave Studies in Oral History has just published Memory, Subjectivities, and Representation: Approaches to Oral History in Latin America, Portugal, and Spain, a collection of eleven original essays written in Spanish, Portuguese and English. The Series’ first volume of translated essays, the book crosses linguistic, disciplinary, and interpretive boundaries, showing a range of approaches to the analysis and presentation of oral material. Themes include: collective and individual memory, construction of individual subjectivities, visual representations of oral narratives, memories of war and political activism, women’s narratives, emotions and memory, migration, sex work, pedagogical uses of oral history, tattoos as auto-bio-graphical inscriptions, reshaping national narratives, and oral history performance.

Rina Benmayor (US) – coeditor. Interdisciplinarity and the importance of translation.

Pilar Dominguez (Spain) – coeditor and author. Individual and collective memory among trade union workers in Spain at the end of the Franco dictatorship.

Cristina Wolff (Brazil) – author. Gendered narratives of former women militants in revolutionary movements in the Southern Cone.

Maria Eugenia Cardenal de la Nuez (Spain) – coeditor and author. The Biographical Narrative Intepretive Method in interviewing and analyzing professional identity formation in times of economic crisis.

Miren Llona (Spain) – author. Emotions and “enclaves of memory,” in the narrative of a Basque nationalist woman.

Alberto del Castillo (Mexico) – author. Journalistic photographers of the 1968 Tlateloco student massacre interpret their images in the present.

Marella Hoffman, UK

A New Development – Using Oral History to Improve Public Policies and Programs

This paper describes a new development in applied oral history that is spreading fast around the world, bringing new relevance, career opportunities and funding for oral historians. In fields from agriculture to law enforcement, ecology to town planning, oral history is increasingly being used to shape public policy-making and improve public programs.

This presentation – the first to explain this new direction – provides a ‘How To’ guide demonstrating how oral history is used in public policy. It provides case studies illustrating why oral history has become so effective in these contexts. It also explores why this movement is still largely below the radar of mainstream oral history, not yet recognized as a new phase in the historical evolution of the field. It suggests that these policy projects may even be the first truly ‘applied’ use of oral history, explaining why earlier oral history projects might be better described as ‘engaged’ rather than fully applied.

The presentation shows how oral historians can help to do this work in socially beneficial ways, train policy professionals in oral history skills, and navigate the ethical issues involved. It also shows oral historians how to package the measurable impacts of their projects in ways most valued by public policy funders.

The speaker worked in public policy for two decades before integrating oral history into that work. As a policy insider, she shows why this is seen as a growing, money-saving practice that helps generate twenty-first century solutions for the complex policy challenges ahead. The paper helps oral historians situate their skills within this movement that’s sweeping through government, industry, technology and social policy. This engaging, transdisciplinary presentation uses multimedia and audience-participation to give both local and global perspectives, and to offer positive futures for oral history and its practitioners in the decades ahead.

Meera Anna Oommen, India

The Elephant in the Room: Settler Memories of Famine and Wildlife Conflict Underlie Resistance to Conservation in an Indian Forest Fringe

Conservationists generally view local communities as problematic elements and focus on contemporary issues with little appreciation of the continuing role of historical processes in motivating resistance to forest and species protection. This paper traces the evolution of conservation conflict in a forest fringe landscape in the Western Ghats hotspot of southern India where migrant settlers practicing marginal agriculture oppose conservation through retaliatory killings of charismatic species and everyday acts of resistance. We analyze these actions in view of the cumulative impact of two traumas which impacted

this community: (1) impoverishment, famine and subsequent dislocation from their native villages, followed by (2) protracted conflict with crop-raiding elephants in their new settlements in the hills.

We trace these experiences through an analysis of oral histories of first and second generation settlers. Displaced by unemployment and localized famines catalyzed by the Second World War, impoverished villagers from Central Travancore were encouraged by the erstwhile princely state and its newly independent counterpart to clear mountain forests for food production. For the migrants, their new home proved to be a harsh and impenetrable frontier, whose hostility was compounded by the unwelcome presence of elephants. Settler remembrances are dominated by memories of daily elephant raids on their settlements which forced them to construct houses in the safety of tall forest trees. While famine has been a long-forgotten story in the plains, it has remained a recurring narrative in the memories of settlers, urging an inordinate focus on food crop cultivation despite poor returns. Contemporary conflict is, therefore, a complex ongoing narrative characterized and fueled by the persistence of memory. By ignoring historical contingencies and privileging only the claims of indigenous residents such as forest-dwelling tribal communities, conservation interventions in the Global South, especially those promoted by international agencies, often overlook the elephant in the room.

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