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Difficult Stories: Oral History of Oppression & Conflict

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Columbia University, Knox Hall

606 W 122nd Street

New York, NY 10027

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Difficult Stories: Oral History of Oppression & Conflict, Zoë West

In a political moment flooded with narratives of injustice — from #MeToo testimonies to documentation of racist violence — it’s worth exploring the question, How can difficult stories effect change? This workshop is for oral historians, activists/advocates, and journalists who are interested in effectively and ethically using oral history methods in the context of conflict, oppression, and human rights issues.

During this workshop, we’ll start by examining how different goals — such as documentation, justice, healing, or reconciliation — may shape the use of oral history methods, presenting both possibilities and challenges. We’ll then cover interviewing skills and project planning specifically for oral history projects about oppression and conflict, and explore various dimensions of how power, politics, and ethics come into play. Some of the critical questions and considerations we’ll delve into include issues of security, trauma, and contending with power dynamics. We will approach all of these themes and questions through participatory activities and exploring case studies.

You’re encouraged to bring to this workshop your own ideas for a future project, or if you’re working on one now, your thoughts on the process. You will leave this training with guidelines for planning an oral history project about oppression or conflict, and advice for navigating the politics and ethics of using oral history methods to challenge injustice.

Zoë West is an anthropologist and oral historian whose work centers on labor, migration, and human rights. She teaches a course on Oral History and Human Rights for OHMA. Her current research explores the promises and challenges of alternative labor organizing models for marginalized workers. Zoë positions herself at the intersection of grassroots and academic work, rooted in the commitment to helping social movements use research and documentation to fuel and strengthen their work. In this vein, she also works actively in teaching and training, and supporting groups in building power through creative strategy, deeper internal processes, and organizing across movements and identities. As a founding member of Rhiza Collective, Zoë develops frameworks for implementing collaborative research, transformative leadership development, narrative and healing work, and political education. She edited and compiled the oral history collection Nowhere to Be Home: Narratives from Survivors of Burma’s Military Regime (McSweeney’s/Voice of Witness, 2011), which was then published in Burmese (NDSP Books, 2016). Zoë received her PhD in social anthropology from the University of Oxford.

*For our oral history workshops, please pay what you can. We suggest $30 for students, recent graduates, or others who are financially constrained, while we suggest that professionals and those with more resources should pay more. All profits from these events go towards our annual merit scholarship for an OHMA student. Please note that OHMA applicants can get their admission fee waived if they attend a workshop.

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Columbia University, Knox Hall

606 W 122nd Street

New York, NY 10027

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Refund Policy

Refunds up to 7 days before event

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