The 2021 OHA election is open for all OHA members. The deadline to vote is Sept 1.
Find the list of candidates (with a bio and personal statement for each) and vote using this form: https://oha.memberclicks.net/2021-election. Members will need to sign in with their membership profile in order to cast a vote.
By Amy Starecheski, OHA Vice-President Sara Sinclair and Nikki Yeboah, Program Co-Chairs
August 2021 Newsletter
In October 2021, the Oral History Association will gather for our first-ever PLANNED virtual meeting. Doesn’t it feel nice, at least compared to 2020, to be able to make plans in advance? Kind of?
While we will miss many things about gathering in person, our team is having a great time making the most of the opportunities that come with gathering online–especially in terms of access. The conference will be affordable–free if you volunteer, as low as $40 for student OHA members and $50 for non-members. We will have live automatic transcription of all events and ASL interpretation for all plenaries and on-demand for parallel sessions.
We also know that access requires more than this. We want this conference to be accessible to non-academics, to our narrators, to people with all kinds of learning styles, to those who have historically been marginalized within the field. So we are creating a mandatory pre-conference training for all presenters and chairs on how to give an accessible, inclusive and engaging presentation and how to facilitate an inclusive conversation. Stay tuned for more details on this in September.
We will kick the conference off with weekend workshops on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 9 and 10, and then offer four days of programming, Oct. 11-14. Each day will have three main time slots for parallel sessions or plenaries, timed so that they work for time zones throughout the Americas, with generous breaks in between. We will not be having the usual receptions but will be providing lots of other opportunities to gather and socialize. The platform we are using, Pheedloop, makes it easy to chat with other participants, individually or in small groups. There will be “birds of a feather” sessions for those who share an identity or experience to gather.
And we are working hard to make sure that the regular conference sessions are places where you can connect, not just tune in. Mini-workshops, campfire sessions and others will be interactive spaces for dialogue. Some sessions will close with an invitation to join the participants for a more informal chat or a meal afterwards, and participants will host small, informal online gatherings for a meal, coffee or cocktail (depending on your time zone!). We also know that one of the benefits of attending a conference online is being able to listen in while cooking dinner, taking a walk or caring for children, so we’ll be sure to label “cameras off” sessions that lend themselves to more passive participation.
There will even be opportunities to gather in person in some locations. For example, oral historians in Hawai’i have organized a satellite conference where they will gather in person and also stream their sessions for others. In September we will offer one more opportunity to sign up to host local in-person gatherings like watch parties, meals or outings in connection with the conference.
As we near the end of August, the OHA Executive Office, the program committee for the annual conference, the Council and our standing committees and taskforces are very busy completing work as we near our annual meeting, “Moving Stories,” this October. As I near the end of my term of president, it has become clear to me that we have our own moving story to tell.
In the past three years, I have had the privilege to witness the commitments, the dedication and effort that many people have made to advance the work of the association and the field of oral history. Witnessing the collectivity of this effort during the extraordinary time that we have lived through and continue to live in is truly awe inspiring.
When it became clear that we would need to cancel last fall’s in-person meeting, I was not alone in my fear that OHA faced a looming catastrophe. If I knew then that we would not be meeting in person in 2021 either, there is no way I could have imagined the level of resilience the OHA would demonstrate and the growth it would undergo throughout this crisis. That growth and resilience was by no means a foregone conclusion. It was only possible because of the time, effort and creativity that so many people have dedicated to the OHA during the pandemic.
This activity and stability have only been possible because of the solid foundation countless committed members of the association have constructed over our 55-year history. Together we have built something extraordinary that none of us ever could have conceived of on our own.
Last fall OHA members passed a visionary new strategic plan that has shaped our work over the current year:
To put this plan in motion, Council formed the Restructuring Taskforce led by Tomás Sandoval and Cynthia Tobar. Since last November they have carefully reviewed our organizational structure, and in June they presented to Council a series of recommended changes. I expect that Council will endorse their recommendations this month, and we will ask our members to approve changes to our bylaws at this fall’s business meeting.
The taskforce is recommending that we establish a standing Development Committee, charged with planning for our long-term economic sustainability. To achieve the advocacy goals defined in our strategic plan, the taskforce is proposing to establish an Advocacy Committee. To enhance our year-round programming, workshops and webinars, the taskforce is suggesting the creation of a standing committee (the name of which is still under discussion) to oversee this work. To coordinate the membership of these committees, the proposal calls for forming a Committee on Committees.
The standing committees will oversee the ongoing work of the OHA that needs to be done year in and year out. For projects that are not ongoing, we will continue to rely on the taskforce structure – committees that dissolve upon completion of the work.
The Restructuring Taskforce also is proposing a new category of participation, member- formed and -led caucuses, which will be formally recognized by the OHA. The caucuses, formed from the bottom up by members who hold a shared interest, identity or other commonality, will, we hope, foster community and inclusivity and create spaces for building mutually beneficial relationships.
I believe these recommendations will allow us to be more responsive, inclusive and transparent as the OHA to evolve.
In July the OHA publicly announced its search for a new Executive Office, which we hope will succeed our current Executive Office on Jan. 1, 2023. The search is being led by Kelly Navies, Zaheer Ali and LuAnn Jones.
Kris McCusker, Louis Kyriakoudes, and Faith Bagley have done a terrific job overseeing the Executive Office since 2018. After next year they will have completed their five-year commitment, and they will leave us in a great position for growth. Stephen Sloan, who chairs our current Development Taskforce, recently produced a chart demonstrating how important the executive office structure has been to our endowment’s growth, which is an indicator of our long-term economic sustainability. The chart notes when the first Executive Office was created at Georgia State University, followed by the move to Middle Tennessee State University.
The Executive Office has also enabled us to expand our membership numbers and the levels of membership participation. Acknowledging the value of Executive Office for the OHA, the Council has agreed to increase our commitment to the next Executive Office by $20,000 to a total of $70,000. Please consider submitting a proposal or encouraging someone else to submit a proposal to help lead the OHA over the coming years in an Executive Office capacity.
In July, Council approved a recommendation from the Diversity Committee, chaired by Anna Kaplan and Daisy Herrera, that the OHA form an Equity Audit Taskforce to further our strategic goals with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
This new taskforce will lead a sweeping and introspective audit of OHA’s past, current and future commitments to DEI in all facets of its operation. The audit will assess OHA’s track record of achieving “the meaningful involvement of historically-marginalized populations, in particular based on race/ethnicity, spiritual beliefs, gender, sexuality, class, educational background, and ability,” while remaining open to additional inequities and fault lines that the audit reveals. The taskforce will work closely with our members over the next two years to as it undertakes this audit.
The Independent Practitioners Taskforce, chaired by Sarah Dziedzic and Jess Lamar Reece Holler, is nearing completion of a suite of materials for all our members, especially those working as non-salaried professionals. These resources will include an Independent Practitioners’ Toolkit (a guide to navigating the field of independent oral history practice for freelancers), an Oral History Practitioner’s Directory (to promote networking connections and job opportunities) and an Advocacy Statement (a statement of support drafted for an audience of hiring organizations that recommends baseline best practices and ethics for working with freelance oral history practitioners). Council in July approved funding to develop the new directory.
In July, the Social Justice Taskforce, chaired by Nishani Frazier and Cliff Mayotte, presented a draft Summary and Recommendations Report for Council feedback. The report presents new ethical and procedural frameworks for practitioners working with vulnerable communities in a social justice context. Calling for a narrator-centered approach to oral history, the taskforce recommends practices that lead to deep community collaboration and power sharing and proposes new models of rolling consent. The taskforce will continue to seek feedback on their work over the coming months.
The OHA thrives on our members’ activity and contributions of all sorts. You can help shape the association with your time, creativity and money. On Aug. 25, we will hold our Annual Day of Giving. With this campaign, we are seeking to further build our endowment with the longer-term goal of reaching $1,000,000. A larger endowment will allow us to invest in the advancement of the field of oral history and will help propel the OHA forward. Would you join me in contributing to this campaign?
This year’s Annual Day of Giving will go toward helping OHA’s endowment reach $1 million. The endowment helps pay for scholarships to the Annual Meeting; helps us stage webinars and other professional outreach and education; allows us to support other oral history organizations like the International Oral History Association; helps support new initiatives like strategic planning. And most of all, a strong endowment ensures a strong financial future for OHA so that it can continue its support and leadership for oral history work.
June 2022 Convened by the Ad Hoc Group for Transformative Oral History Practice* in collaboration with the Oral History Association and the Oral History Center at UC Berkeley
It has been just over one year since a White police officer murdered George Floyd, sparking the largest call for racial justice in this country in a generation. Support for Black Lives Matter reached an all-time high in June 2020, with nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults holding a favorable opinion of the movement, and support spilling over to all corners of the globe. White Americans also helped take down Confederate monuments and bought books on antiracism in record numbers while corporations pledged millions of dollars to social justice organizations and causes. One year later, however, commemorations of Floyd’s life and legacy asked: “What’s changed since?”
We acknowledge that “Assessing the Role of Race and Power in Oral History Theory and Practice”is taking place amid revitalized demands for understanding – and changing – the systemic racism that enabled a White police officer to murder a Black citizen in daylight without seeming fear of repercussions. But it is also taking place at a time of fierce backlash to any understanding of the oppressive forces that enabled Floyd’s murder. At the time of this writing, some state legislatures have passed laws banning the teaching of critical race theory, even as a majority of states seek to suppress the Black vote and overturn our elections. Recent events such as these are causing many to evaluate the role of structural racism and White supremacy in the arts and humanities, including the practice of oral history.
Building on an enthusiastically received panel that asked “Is Oral History White?” at the 2020 Oral History Association annual meeting, participants in that session (calling ourselves the Ad Hoc Group for Transformative Oral History Practice), in collaboration with the Oral History Association and the Oral History Center at UC Berkeley, are convening a symposium that will define, identify, analyze, assess, and imagine alternatives to conventional practices, prevailing ideologies, and institutional structures of oral history in the United States and Canada, as they pertain to historic and current forms of systemic racial discrimination. In essence, the symposium is moving beyond the question the 2020 panel asked – “Is Oral History White?” – to interrogate broader structures and dynamics of race and racialized thinking in oral history.
We are inviting proposals from oral historians and others involved in fieldwork-related interviewing practices, as well as critical race and Whiteness theorists, to submit proposals for symposium papers that pose major questions and offer precise assessments of racial constructs as a factor in all phases of oral history work: project design, research processes, financial and budgetary matters, fieldwork and community relations, interviewing, archival practices, and public presentation and interpretation of narrative materials.
The “Assessing the Role of Race and Power in Oral History Theory and Practice” symposium will take place via Zoom Webinar over a three-day period in June 2022. We expect to convene approximately thirty-five presenters, spread over six to eight sessions of two hours each. With the assistance of a moderator and/or one or more discussants, session presenters will summarize and discuss pre-circulated papers posted on a conference website, which will have also been made available to registered attendees in advance of the symposium. Symposium sessions will allow time for audience questions and comments, vetted and synthesized via the Zoom Webinar “Q&A” function by the session moderator. This format will allow for especially robust and probing discussion during sessions.
This symposium should present a significant opportunity for audience members to reflect personally upon the charged subject of race in oral history in a pedagogically constructive way. Discussions of racialized experience and representations in our field will raise not only important insights but also strong emotions. We expect our audience to have a vast range of racial identities and relationships – including but not limited to Whiteness and Blackness – and varying degrees of experience reflecting upon that. We therefore plan to set shared expectations for constructive conversation rooted in mindful awareness, good faith engagement, and emotional maturity at the very beginning of the symposium and to create opportunities for small-group discussion and individually tailored self-reflection over the duration of the symposium. We hope that the symposium’s virtual nature, with participants in the relative privacy and comfort of their own homes, will contribute to this aspect of the symposium experience. Above all, we plan to keep discussion focused on practical applications of whatever theoretical and conceptual insights into race in oral history our symposium may furnish.
Intended outcomes include publication of revised versions of selected conference papers in an edited volume and a white paper assessing OHA’s racialized history, practices, and programs, to be developed by symposium organizers. Organizers, in cooperation with OHA’s Equity Task Force and Diversity Committee, will also create and promulgate guidelines for racial equity in oral history.
Pending receipt of grant monies, we hope to provide honoraria for symposium presenters.
Each proposal should include a title, an abstract of no more than 500 words, and a short biographical statement of no more than 300 words. Include your name, institutional affiliation if relevant, mailing address, email address, and phone number. The abstract must outline the research that you either have conducted or intend to conduct in support of your proposed presentation, the sources that you have consulted or will consult, and the collections in which you have conducted or will conduct research. While we anticipate that most proposals will be for a single paper, we welcome proposals for full sessions, also – to include 3-5 papers, moderator and discussant/s. We also welcome inquiries from individuals interested in serving as a session moderator or discussant to include a brief statement of interest and a short summary of work in oral history. Proposals are due October 1, 2021. (See below for more information.)
Some questions and themes we expect symposium participants may address include:
(Please note that we are open to other related questions and explorations.)
Whiteness and White Supremacy
How should Whiteness be defined, and how do the deep structures and conventions of our practice reflect Whiteness, structural racism, and White supremacy?
How might an interrogation of unexamined Whiteness be brought to bear on work in oral history? This might be done by assessing a past project or the curation of an existing collection or by considering the planning and implementation of a project currently under development. (Note: While we welcome case studies that audit specific projects, we would also like to see papers go beyond that.)
How has work that has drawn upon existing collections reproduced racialized assumptions?
What are some examples of projects that handled or represented racial dynamics, including Whiteness, in a creative, antiracist, or otherwise generative way?
Non-Western perspectives and approaches
What has oral history learned from Indigenous, African American and other perspectives and approaches that fall outside the dominant Western paradigm?
What patterns do we see in our own work that can be traced to BIPOC origins and models? What do these BIPOC origins and models have to teach us about the pitfalls of Whiteness and White Supremacy?
How might specific insights, both theoretical and methodological, generated by the field of Critical Race Studies, help guide practical approaches to oral history?
How and in what circumstances has oral history operated against the grain of prevailing racial assumptions?
What can oral historians learn about power dynamics and reflexivity from research in the field of trauma studies?
How have the institutional and organizational structures underlying work in oral history been racialized? How has the way oral history has been funded and otherwise supported contributed to unintentional racial bias? How has the “history from below” approach perpetuated these biases? And how do White interviewers themselves perpetuate bias?
Over its fifty-plus year history, how has the work of the Oral History Association been racialized or reflective of broader patterns of White supremacy? In what ways and to what effect has the association functioned as a gatekeeper for oral history and oral historians, including some practitioners, practices, and work, excluding others, through its various products and programs such as the Principles and Best Practices, annual meeting, and publication of the Oral History Review? How has the association addressed racial issues over time, to what effect?
When and where is it appropriate for oral historians to think beyond our individual projects and consider the role of the institutions we work for in order to tackle structural racism?
Oral history and current events
How are oral historians and the institutions and organizations with which we are affiliated responding to the current political moment? How might we respond more effectively?
Oral history is by its nature a civic enterprise and a medium for public engagement. How can oral history mobilize anti-racist constituencies, create dialogue around difficult issues, and/or influence public opinion or policy?
What are the limits of oral history in combating structural racism?
The deadline for proposal submissions is October 1 November 1.
Notification of acceptance: On or about November 15.
*The Ad Hoc Group for Transformative Oral History is composed to date of the five panelists who contributed to the OHA’s 2020 conference session, “Is Oral History White?” – Benji de la Piedra, Jessica Douglas, Kelly E. Navies, Linda Shopes and Holly Werner-Thomas.
***All times listed on the PDF of the Preliminary Schedule are in the Eastern Time Zone. ***
For this year’s annual meeting we are using a virtual event platform called Pheedloop. Pheedloop will work similarly to the platform we used last year in that it will be the gateway to accessing all the conference content. In addition to having the schedule of sessions, we’ll have an Exhibit Hall and Poster Session where attendees will be able to engage with exhibitors and presenters through text and video chat. Attendees will also be able to chat with other attendees one on one. The platform has Zoom integration, which should streamline joining and switching between sessions, and allows attendees to create a personal schedule of sessions. It also has accessibility adjustments, which allows attendees to adjust settings like font size, color contrast and saturation, etc., and can optimize profiles for vision impairment, ADHD, and more. Pheedloop will adjust the times of the program schedule to the attendees’ time zone.
Conference registrants will receive a virtual event invite in their email from Pheedloop shortly before the conference. This invite will have the link and login information to access the virtual event platform. We’ll also have instructions on how to update personal information and navigate the platform.
Poster Session and Exhibit Hall
This year the poster session and exhibit hall will be integrated into Pheedloop. Attendees will be able to browse them anytime during the conference, but we’ll also have times built into the schedule so attendees can chat with the people at each “booth.”
For the regular sessions, OHA has acquired a package of professional Zoom licenses so that we can host and manage ten simultaneous sessions. The expectation is that presenters will present their materials live and that there will be live engagement with the audience following the presentations. Our goal is to have at least one volunteer per session, who will edit the automated third-party transcript. If possible, we ask that the chair of the session host the meeting, but if they are not comfortable with that, then we will have another volunteer present. Panelists and speakers will also share their visual slides live through Zoom screen share. For the most part, the panels will run very similarly to how we would run our panels in a live conference format.
Attendees will join the Zoom sessions directly through Pheedloop, though there is an option to join traditionally as well if there are any problems (with a link and passcode).
We have developed a strategy to make this the most accessible OHA conference to date. The plenaries and business meeting will have live ASL translation. All sessions (not including Zoom breakout rooms) will have an automated transcript, and we are working to develop a list of volunteers to edit those transcripts before posting the recording. We have provided guidance to presenters so that they can develop accessible visual presentations. Presenters will also be able to upload any presentation materials to the virtual event platform.
We will record all sessions unless panelists explicitly opt out. If even one panelists opts out, then the whole panel will not be recorded. All attendees will be notified upon entering a session that the session is being recorded and that their participation within the session will be recorded. These recordings will be posted along with the transcripts. These recordings will be accessible only to those who are registered for the conference. Conference attendees will be able to view sessions scheduled alongside one another and will be able to watch the sessions regardless of what time zone they live in. Pre-conference workshops will also be recorded, but those recordings will only be accessible to those registered for that workshop.