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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.

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 then back again; embracing the cyclicality, disruptions, and constructions of time.

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, bodies, and difference; how the movement of memory shapes the stories groups of people tell about themselves; the movement of oral history across disciplines, mediums, identities, borders, and cultures; 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? What are the ethical and political stakes of live vs virtual encounters?

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 and back into the hands of the communities from which they emerge? 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!

The conference was originally planned to take place in Cincinnati, Ohio. We cannot yet determine if it will be possible for us to gather in Cincinnati in some way, but what we do know is that this will be a conference with significant remote elements. We do, however, invite proposals for local in-person “satellite” gatherings around the world, whether for social and networking events, conference watch parties, or in-person sessions. Please see appendix below for a list of next year’s conference session formats.

We invite you to consider innovative ways to deliver engaging and interactive online and in-person events. Sessions that involve movement through real or virtual space: walk-and-roll-arounds, dine-ins, 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 various 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 submissions from those who are taking it in new directions, forging new paths, and questioning old ones. We invite critiques of the field and forays into its futurity. Where are we going and how do we get there?

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

OHA 2021 Session Formats: In the spirit of movement and transformation, this year’s session formats promote new ways of disseminating the stories we collect and share. Participants are welcome to select how they would like to use the conference space from the options below.

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather (BOF) involves groups of people with a common interest or area of expertise informally working together. Program committee can suggest BOF groups for attendees to join and we also welcome proposals for BOF groups. The informal sessions take place without a pre-planned agenda and are designed to encourage discussion and networking. Proposals for BOF groups should have a facilitator, and ideally two.

Campfire

Campfire Sessions begin with a speaker (or multiple speakers) at the front of the room presenting an idea to a group of people. After 15 or 20 minutes, however, the focus shifts from the presenter to the audience. For the remainder of the session, the presenter becomes a facilitator, inviting comments, insights, and questions from those around the room. Campfire sessions allow attendees to drive their own learning and share experiences with others, which also assists with networking.  

Listening Session

1-3 presenters share longer excerpts from their interviews (up to 30 minutes of audio total), and then generate a conversation with the audience.  This is a chance for audiences and researchers to discuss the ethical, interpretive, or pragmatic issues that arise in the interviews and for researchers to get feedback on their interviewing method, or to engage in shared interpretation with colleagues of thorny or complex issues.

Mini-workshop

1-2 workshops leaders share knowledge and expertise about a particular oral history tool, technology, technique lesson plan, or software in a short “how to” session.

Panel 

3-4 speakers present papers, 10-20 minutes each, followed by discussion. Includes a chair and may include a commentator.

Papers in Progress

Attendees sign up in advance to read each other’s work in advance of the conference and come together to workshop pieces in progress during the session.  Proposals should have a chair, and may include participants who have already agreed to be part of the session, or can be open for participants to sign up once the program is announced.

Personal Introspective

In these sessions, attendees privately reflect on their answers to a set of questions. All attendees write their answers down. They then have an opportunity, but not an obligation, to share their answers with the group. It is a useful format to use towards the end of the conference to help reinforce learning and solidify commitments to make changes based on their experiences at the gathe. Proposals should have a facilitator, and ideally two.

Performance/Storytelling

An aesthetic, narrative or artistic production involving one or more persons. Includes a chair and may include a commentator.

Roundtable

3-6 speakers make 5-10 minute introductory remarks and engage in a discussion with each other and the audience.

Satellites

Proposals for local in-person gatherings around the world, whether for social and networking events, conference watch parties, or in-person sessions.

The Solution Room

The Solution Room is designed to provide peer-supported advice on attendees’ most pressing challenges. Proposals should outline a particular challenge to be discussed. Participants are divided into break-out groups of 6-8.  People with “challenges” circle through the break-out rooms to present their problem and have it brainstormed by the group in 7-minute cycles. A note-taker in each “room” keeps a record which can be shared at the end of the session. Proposals should have a facilitator, and ideally two.

Submission Deadline: The submission portal will open by February 1 and the application deadline will be March 1.

Proposal Queries may be directed to: 

Nikki Yeboah, 2021 Program Co-chair (San Jose State University, nikki.yeboah@sjsu.edu)
Sara Sinclair, 2021 Program Co-chair (Columbia University, ses2235@columbia.edu)
Amy Starecheski, OHA Vice President (Columbia Oral History MA Program, aas39@columbia.edu)

For submission inquiries or more information, contact:

Faith Bagley, Program Associate, 615-898-2544, oha@oralhistory.org