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2021 Call for Papers

“Moving Stories”
October 13-17, 2021
Cincinnati, OH

The Oral History Association invites proposals for papers and presentations for its 2021 annual meeting to be held October 13-17, 2021 virtually, around the world, and in Cincinnati, Ohio.

For this conference, we invite you to reflect on the idea of movement in expansive terms from the geographical to the technological to the political. In 2020 we saw sudden and massive shifts in how we move physically around the world. Many of us moved much less. At the same time, we saw rapid changes in social and cultural life and an effervescence of social movements.

Oral History has become an international movement in historical research. Our practice has long been used to document the movement(s) of people and of ideas. And at the heart of our work, we are midwives to meaning making in the processes of remembering. We move memories from the past to the present to promote their reverberations in the future. 

The 2021 conference highlights the many ways that oral history moves stories, ideas and memories. The Program Committee is interested in proposals that consider how stories move through generations, communities, and geographies; what stories get told about periods of movement, transition and stillness; stories of migration and transition across time, space and bodies; how the movement of memory shapes the stories groups of people tell about themselves; the movement of oral history across disciplines and mediums; and how oral history utilizes the movement of narratives towards transformative social change. We are also interested in how oral history is used to document these movements.  

 In its indigenous origin, oral history has long been understood as an embodied practice: as memory transmitted from one body to another. The Program Committee is interested in proposals that consider how our field might expand understanding of our work to include digital bodies. How might we reframe our interviews to include a virtual meeting of two bodies? How might we use the virtual realm in our encounters with narrators to access different kinds of memories?  

Conversely, how can we access more physical expressions of memory beyond the colonial archive? What might an embodied archive that encourages alternative forms of engagement with the stories we collect look like? How might we shift and reimagine new modalities that move the conversation into the public forum? These questions speak to a broad intersection of subject areas, from gentrification to migration studies, queer studies, postcolonial theory, disability studies to performance studies. However, the Program Committee welcomes broad and creative interpretations of the conference theme!

Tucked into one of the valleys carved out by moving glaciers, the city of Cincinnati provides a perfect backdrop for the 2021 conference theme of Moving Stories with historic ties to multiple forms of travel.  Located between the Little Miami and Great Miami rivers, Cincinnati was once the chief port on the Ohio River for trade and steamboat travel. Across the river from the former slave state of Kentucky, Cincinnati was an important stop on the Underground Railroad and is currently home to both the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and The Harriet Beecher Stowe House. The Union Terminal, an active and historical train station, houses the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Holocaust and Humanity Center. And, if you want to experience the city on foot, you can take one of the Homeless Coalition’s walking tours of downtown Cincinnati. There is something for everyone to explore and experience. 

It is possible that the OHA Ohio conference may take place in an environment in which different regions and modes of travel continue to pose safety concerns for conference participants. For that reason, and in the interest of forging a more accessible path for the conference beyond 2021, we envision allowing for some local, in-person presenters and attendees as well as for the possibility of more expansive travel, while also accommodating those who wish to present or participate remotely. We are also interested in exploring the possibility of participants gathering in remoted hubs around the world and livestreaming select sessions from these locations.  

 We invite you to consider innovative ways to deliver engaging and interactive online and in-person events that are hands-on and fun. Sessions that involve movement through real or virtual space: walk-and-roll-arounds, dine-arounds, audio guided runs, virtual cook-ins, skill-shares, performances, and network meet-ups are some of the possibilities that we envision but we look forward to the expansion of our vision by all of your creative submissions. 

In addition, we welcome proposals from the diverse communities that carry out oral history work – academics, independent scholars, activists, librarians, museum curators, web designers, teachers, community historians, documentary film producers, artists, creative writers, ethnographers, public historians, and others whose work relates to this year’s conference theme. As the field of oral history itself has moved and transformed over the years, we invite both new and seasoned historians to submit their ideas.

We hope to have a significant international presence at the meeting and particularly welcome proposals that highlight oral history work in the Americas outside the United States. If accepted, international presenters may apply for travel stipends and/or registration waivers, made available by the OHA in support of international presentations. Small travel stipends and registration waivers are also available for accepted presenters and others who attend the meeting.

Proposal Format: The online proposal site will open in November, 2020, and submission information will be posted on the OHA website, Cincinnati, Ohio, provides an exciting location to focus on and highlight all the innovative and dynamic oral history work taking place around the country and the world.

Proposal Queries may be directed to: 

Nikki Yeboah, 2021 Program Co-chair (San Jose State University,
Sara Sinclair, 2021 Program Co-chair (Columbia University,
Amy Starecheski, OHA Vice President (Columbia Oral History MA Program,

For submission inquiries or more information, contact:

Faith Bagley, Program Associate, 615-898-2544,