International Committee Blog: Scholarship Recipients report back about the OHA Annual Meeting

Each year scholarship applications submitted by selected international participants for the OHA annual meeting are reviewed by the International Committee. This year ten applications were reviewed. With only $3,500.00 in total to offer, the decisions on which applications to fund were difficult ones for the committee.

The following six participants were granted scholarships:

Tetiana Borka from Kiev, Ukraine

Sevil Cakir from Mersin, Turkey

Katherine Fobear from British Columbia, Canada

Selma Leydesdorff from Amsterdam, Netherlands

Jo Roberts from Ontario, Canada

Stacy Zembrzycki from Quebec, Canada

Over the next two months, reports from the participants granted scholarships will be highlighted in this blog. This month reports by Katherine Fobear and Selma Leydesdorff are highlighted:

Katherine Fobear

Title: Accordion Homes: Understanding Memory and Emotional Attachment in Queer Refugee’s Stories of Home in Metro Vancouver

Attending and presenting at the 2014 Oral History Association Conference was an amazing experience. It left me with a great sense of pride and solidarity as an oral historian. It was incredible to listen to the work of other oral historians. I discovered so many relevant connections in terms of narrative, memory, and community collaboration between my oral history work with LGBTQ refugees and the oral history work of the various presenters.

I previously attended several other academic and professional conferences before, but it has only been at this conference that practitioners and academics were equally engaged with each other in dialogue. A great example of this was in the panel “Humbling Moments: Facing Failures in the Field and Debriefing on Oral History Practice.” Dr. Sherna Berger Gluck, Dr. Stacey Zembrzycki, Dr. Margo Shea, and Dr. Anna Sheftel shared their “mistakes” in conducting oral histories with difficult participants and the lessons they learned from it. What came out of this was a frank conversation on the ethics and roles oral historians have during the moment of the interview and afterwards. One question stood out for me was, “Is it unethical to not stop and interject if the speaker is saying something profoundly racist, sexist, or homophobic?” Do we let the person continue their story uninterrupted? Is it our ethical duty to voice dissent in order to not propagate racist, sexist, and homophobic ideology? Where is the line drawn between our own personal and political convictions and that of being an objective oral historian? It was a fascinating conversation that in the end had no full conclusion. Instead it is an ongoing conversation within our oral historian community.

Being granted the International Oral History Scholarship allowed me this opportunity to learn, reflect, and engage with others. It has been two weeks after the conference and I am still mulling over the great presentations I listened to and the conversations I had. I am so very grateful.

Selma Leydesdorff

Title: Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis

I came to Madison to see what was happening. I was more interested with theory and digitization and less interested in community based scholarship, which is much more common practice in the US than in Europe.

I did see an incredible variety of ways of dealing with digital archives and I realized again we need to rethink what is happening at a theoretical level. The creation of archives of the written word happened two centuries ago or less. It has led to ways of organizing which enable us to look at the written past. With the digital material we work with, this unification did not happen, though I think we need it.

We also need to think what current changes in the writing of history mean, and where they belong in history. Long ago history was also the spoken word. This was replaced by the written word. If we turn back, what do we win??

I also loved to remember my fellow editor Kim Lacey Rogers with those who had known her. We’ll all miss this remarkable woman.

I was happy to attend, and I learned a lot.

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