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Oral History for Human Rights: From Conflict & Oppression to Documentation...

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Columbia University, Knox Hall

606 West 122nd Street

New York, NY 10027

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Oral History for Human Rights: From Conflict & Oppression to Documentation & Advocacy, Zoë West

This workshop is for oral historians and activists/advocates who are interested in effectively and ethically using oral history methods to respond to conflict, oppression, and human rights violations. Oral history can be used toward various ends: to document and understand experiences of conflict and oppression of people whose voices have been marginalized; for advocacy and activism; to work toward reconciliation; and/or potentially for individual and collective healing. During this workshop we will first explore these goals to envision what oral history for human rights means in different contexts. We will examine how these different goals may complement each other and when they might grate against each other. We will then delve into the practical and look at how these different ends can shape the interview and production process. Given the real challenges to achieving these ideals in politically-charged contexts, we will explore the questions and considerations that are critical for effectively implementing a human rights oral history project. For example, how do you choose who to interview when the question of who is a survivor or victim is a political question? How might a project adequately reflect an issue or community? How can you responsibly prepare to do interviews with people who have experienced trauma? What dilemmas might arise in editing and disseminating human rights oral histories? We will approach all of these themes and questions through participatory activities and exploring case studies.

Participants are encouraged to bring into this workshop their own experience conducting a human rights oral history project or one they hope to design. Participants will leave this training with a framework for understanding oral history for human rights; guidelines for planning a human rights oral history project; and guidelines for navigating the politics and ethics of doing oral history as a response to conflict, oppression, and human rights violations.

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 recently 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 $25 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 students.

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Columbia University, Knox Hall

606 West 122nd Street

New York, NY 10027

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