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2022 Call for Proposals

Walking Through the Fire: Human Perseverance in Times of Turmoil
October 19-22, 2022
Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

–Charles Bukowski


We live in uncertain times. A global pandemic, the escalation of racial violence, attacks on democratic institutions, and a worsening climate crisis put strain on individuals and communities alike, often challenging the ways we understand our present and envision a future.

 While the turmoil around us feels out of the ordinary, it is not without precedent. A nation founded on liberty and democracy but simultaneously on settler colonialism and slavery lives in contradiction, the avoidable but very common result of which has been violence, calamity, and instability for generations. Indeed, the present moment rests on these historic imbalances, whether in the ascendancy of authoritarianism and racial nationalism; the movements for Black lives, immigrants’ rights, and climate justice; or the myriad ways chronic inequities have exacerbated the impact of the deadly pandemic. Our present is exceptional, but it also unites us with generations of humanity who have faced their own struggles to endure.

As a worldwide lockdown interrupted the normality of societal life, it served as a palpable reminder of human capabilities and needs. Obliged to shift our family and work lives, we found ways to adapt and maintain. In need of comfort and community, we engaged new modes of communication and connectivity to provide solace and care. Though far too many fell victim to the virus—whether in body or spirit—many more invented ways to nurture and lift up. These collective trials harnessed our creativity and resilience. Naturally, they also compelled us to search for meaning, to reexamine, and, ultimately, to remember. 


The Oral History Association invites your critical and creative contributions to our October 2022 conference theme—human perseverance in times of turmoil. How do people “walk through the fire” of their times and emerge from the other side? How do they remember and narrate those travails, whether personal or societal? How do they make meaning of crisis and struggle? By its very nature, oral history communicates human perseverance, for the ability to tell one’s story “after the fact” is a record of the most basic level of survival. Yet the spectrum of human experiences and meaning-making processes comprises stories of resilience and closure as easily as those of pain and the traumatic persistence of the past. We welcome human stories in all their diversity toward framing our exploration of this theme.

We also invite engagements with how our present helps us consider oral history as practice. Times like these shine a particularly critical spotlight on those of us concerned with preserving a record of the past. Oral historians, archivists, and other practitioners are adept at documenting crises—often while in crisis—to engage in discussions of memory, healing and atonement, and justice. How do these moments challenge our understanding of the oral historical project? How do they compel us to rethink how we record, preserve, interpret, and memorialize? How do they stress the ethical concerns undergirding our field? In an unprecedented moment constraining our ability to physically connect yet providing new modes to do so virtually, how do we envision the future of our field?

Los Angeles is a fitting locale for our first in-person conference in three years. Home of the Tongva people—who first named this land Tovaangar—Los Angeles is a site of indigenous fortitude and survivance amid the settler colonial projects of three powers—Spanish, Mexican, and the United States. A cultural and economic hub of the Pacific, immigration has long animated Los Angeles with a unique dynamism all its own. Home to Hollywood and its visions of myth and fantasy, it is also the second largest city in the United States shaped by the material realities of our 21st century world. While disasters have plagued L.A.—earthquakes, fires, and the oppressive thumb of white supremacy—the city has also given birth to innumerable movements enacting the hope of a better world. As we gather together to reconnect, reflect, and envision a future that nurtures the dignity of all people, Los Angeles will provide an engaging foundation for our collective inquiry. 


The Program Committee welcomes an array of interpretations of the conference theme. In the spirit of transformation and adaptation, this year’s session formats are informed by last year’s program committee, who promoted new ways of disseminating the stories we collect and share. We welcome proposals for any of the formats listed below:

Individual Paper: 1 speaker presents a single paper for 10-15 minutes. Individual papers will be topically or thematically paired with 2-3 others to form a complete panel, which includes a chair and commentator. An audience discussion concludes the set of presentations.

Panel: 3-4 speakers present their individual papers for 10-15 minutes each, followed by discussion. Panel proposals should exhibit a coherent topic or theme, and include 1-2 non-presenters to serve as panel chair and commentator.

Listening Session: 1-4 presenters share longer excerpts from oral interviews (in total, up to 30 minutes of combined audio) and then generate a conversation with the audience. This format provides researchers and audiences to discuss the ethical, interpretive, or pragmatic issues that arise in the oral history process. Researchers may engage the audience in shared interpretation of interviews and related issues, or to provide feedback on their methods and practice.

Roundtable: 3-4 speakers provide up to 15 minutes of introductory remarks and then engage with each other and the audience in discussion on a common topic, problem, or theme.

Campfire Session: a speaker (or multiple speakers) begins these sessions by presenting an idea, problem, or issue to the audience. After 15-20 minutes, the focus shifts to the audience, with the presenter(s) facilitating comments, questions, and insights from those gathered in the room. Campfire sessions are inherently interactive and collaborative, where a group of people engage with each other to advance understanding.

All participants are encouraged to incorporate voice and image as part of their work. Inspired by our times, we also encourage you to consider ways your participation can harness new ways of engaging with others and the work we do. We are particularly committed to assembling a program reflective of the variety of professional fields which give life to oral history as a practice, including those who may work outside the United States. As always, the OHA welcomes proposals from independent scholars, community activists and organizers, archivists, librarians, museum curators, digital designers, documentary producers, media artists, ethnographers, public historians, and all practitioners whose work reflects the diversity of our field and organization.

Proposals must be submitted by February 25, 2022 (11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time)

​​Proposal Queries may be directed to:

Yolanda Hester, 2022 Program Co-chair (independent practitioner, ude.a1635441822lcu@y1635441822yrets1635441822eh1635441822)
José M. Aguilar-Hernández, 2022 Program Co-chair (Cal Poly Pomona, ude.p1635441822pc@ze1635441822dnanr1635441822ehj1635441822)
Tomás Summers Sandoval, OHA Vice President (Pomona College, ude.a1635441822nomop1635441822@ssft1635441822)

For submission inquiries or more information, contact:
Faith Bagley, OHA Program Associate, 615-898-2544, gro.y1635441822rotsi1635441822hlaro1635441822@aho1635441822