International Scholarship Presentations at the 2015 Annual Meeting

This is our second blog highlighting abstracts of papers to be given at this year’s OHA Annual Meeting in Tampa by International Committee Scholarship recipients.

Carol McKirdy, Australia
Panel: Stories that Move [with] Us: Oral History in Migration and Diaspora
South Sudanese Refugees in Southern Sydney: A Community Oral History Project

This project captured history of local community Sudanese immigration history by recording the narratives of recent Sudanese refugees and citizens in the community who assisted and engaged with them to help settlement in Australia. Narratives of people from Caringbah Anglican Church, Gymea Community Aid Information Service, Sutherland Shire Council and TAFE NSW Sutherland College were recorded. The project documents Australian Sudanese immigrant community history, recollections of life in Africa including war, civil unrest and diaspora, the Dinka language and images. Ownership of the project belongs to Sudanese people.

The oral histories help people understand more about Sudanese people living in the community demonstrates how refugees settle and how the community supported immigrants. The project helps the community’s understanding of cultural diversity, fosters history preservation, builds capacity of the community to understand the unique circumstances of Sudanese refugees, reduces racism and breaks down barriers through building awareness of people who were new settlers and appeared different, enables second generation Sudanese children to learn family history, creates unique, Australian History educational resources as the oral histories are published on a wiki and linked to educational websites, provides models for future immigration records, encourages community participation with newly arrived migrants and fosters social inclusion and harmony. The project included narratives from Sudanese children who experienced significant and uncommon childhood events and had valuable contributions to make because of their unique understanding. Their short recordings tell history from a child’s viewpoint. To collect their stories, Sudanese children participated in a version of Vox Populi.

Narratives are poignant in their retelling of diasporic and traumatic lives as people moved around Sudan seeking safety and freedom from conflict, then to Kakuma refugee camp and finally to Australia to establish new lives in peace. The Sudanese histories won’t be forgotten and left untold.

Jorge Mercado, Puerto Rico
Panel: Oral History and New Narratives of U.S. Latin@ Experience
The Migration of Puerto Ricans to Houston, Texas, from 1950 to 2010

“The Migration of Puerto Ricans to Houston, Texas, from 1950 to 2010” is a research study and the final dissertation project to fulfill the requirements of the Doctoral degree program at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain in the History Department by the researcher. The purpose of the research is to determine the factors that influence the history of the migration of Puerto Ricans to Houston, Texas from 1950 to 2010, a non-traditional site for migration of Puerto Ricans and one of the new sites for settlement of this Diaspora. Because of the lack of statistical data available from 1940 to 1990 most of the information has been obtained by oral history interviews. This paper will discuss the project, focusing on the impact and importance of oral history interviews as an informational source that provides the necessary documentation and framework to enhance the contributions and history of this ethnic group in Houston, Texas.

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