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Oral History, Art & Activism: A Radical Mix for Social Change

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NEW TITLE: Oral History, Art & Activism: A Radical Mix for Social Change


Frederick Douglass said that “power concedes nothing without a demand.” We’re interested in the many creative ways that oral history can help make that demand. Oral history interviews inspire painters and poets, playwrights and podcasters, protestors alike. How can the first-person stories we collect and the ways we share them engage communities working for change and confront the status quo? What are the possibilities for co-creation and collaboration when oral history, art, and activism inspire each other? How do we channel our collective imagination and creativity to share knowledge, demand fairness, and make real change happen? How does our work inform our strategies to achieve social change and, more importantly, how we define social change?

This discussion is for anyone interested in the nexus between oral history, art of any kind, and activism. We’ll share experiences from work we’ve done and share ideas for how to push the bounds of oral history and creativity even further in our drive for social change.


Eylem Delikanli is an oral historian and independent researcher. She holds an MA in Sociology specializing in the sociology of communication. She is an MA student at Columbia University’s Oral History MA program. She is a founding member of Research Institute on Turkey (RIT)- a grassroots research cooperative based in NY focusing on commonization practices for social change in Turkey with an emphasis on social and economic justice, gender equality, sexual rights, cultural and political recognition, and ecologic sustainability from a critical historical perspective. Her recent archival work as part of the RIT Collective Memory includes the press archive of Devrimci Yol, one of Turkey’s largest political movements in the 70s. Eylem is also a member of Çocuklarız Bir Aradayız initiative – a group working towards building a collective memory of 1980 Coup D’État in Turkey. As an oral historian, Eylem’s work focuses on theories of post memory, collective memory, authoritarianism and silence specifically on 1980 Coup D’Etat in Turkey and the Armenian Genocide. Focusing on the 1980 Coup and using the collection of life stories, Eylem co-authored the book Keşke Bir Öpüp Koklasaydım (with Ozlem Delikanli in Turkish, Istanbul: Ayrıntı Yayınları September 2013). The second book, in progress, covers the narratives of political refugees of the Coup in Europe and North America. Eylem is currently working on an oral history project on Albert Einstein.

Leyla Vural is an oral historian, writer, and editor in New York City and has worked in communications for social change, particularly in the workers’ rights movement, for more than 20 years. Leyla was recently the storyteller at a conference at the U.N. on sustainable energy for all. She is a member of the Field Research Team for The Civilians, which uses interviews to create original theater. And she is a member of the board of the New York Labor History Association, which is dedicated to remembering working-class history and using that history to inform efforts to make the present better. Leyla has an M.A. in oral history from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in geography from Rutgers University.

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