Oral History Projects
From local history to social history: the people remember Allen
Project Allen began its operations in 2004 with an objective to reconstruct the historical and cultural heritage of the city of Allen (Río Negro, Argentina) on route to its centennial celebrations in 2010.
We proposed an investigation of the last 100 years of history by trying to collaborate with the development of a community memory with social value. We also wanted to contribute to the formation of identity and collective consciousness. This meant seeking the recovery of past experiences as a reflection of customs, traditions and the way of life of individuals and social groups – actions that have value in the social collective.
Interviews were conducted in order to recover life histories of some 100 inhabitants. 3000 photographic images from private and institutional collections were digitized as well as some 2000 original documents from historical archives – local, regional and provincial.
With the Patagonian background upon which the town was founded, as well as the existence of an identity composed of descendants of diverse cultures (Mapuche, European, Chilean and internal migrants), there exists a variety of stories and images that refer to traditions, customs and inherited practices, some continued through generations, others forgotten or rejected.
Project Allen was built as a form of community communication and interaction. It was installed in the local community to encourage people to provide information, photographs and /or to give their life testimonies. This idea has worked well through recognition of our work by the press and other organisations, both local and regional. Schools and teachers have consulted our material, and different groups and institutions have colaborated with our activities.
After the centennial year of the town (2010) we started a new research paper entitled “Love Stories in a city; it is love that unites us, not terror.” We began interviewing couples and individuals in the area to create a corpus of interviews that could be researched, taking into account methodological approaches proposed by history, anthropology, and new perspectives of gender, as well as interpretive disciplines capable of giving rise to subjectivity towards understanding social processes (Hernández G. and Herrera, S., 1999).
Social history and the revaluation of everyday life are putting an analytical and interpretive focus closer to issues such as love, a theme that has allowed for changes, continuities and ruptures in attitudes over time.
Project Allen is an independent team that has received circumstantial material support from provincial and local public institutions. This has permitted the financing of cultural activities, training and inputs which have been used in the course of the investigation. However, the project has been sustained mainly due to the selfless contribution (both human and material) by the different members of the project.
Our website: www.proyectoallen.com.ar (3rd version)
Oral History in Brazil: History, Trends, Ideas
The oral history done in Brazil has come a long way, from early experiences in the area of sociology in the 1950s, to the seminal works in the field of social psychology and print culture in the 1970s, the same decade in which the Columbia University model of “oral history” was implemented in the country. Since then – and particularly starting around the late 1980s and early 1990s – several groups have flourished, and researchers from varied disciplinary and geographical origins have been building a large body of work based on oral sources.
After carrying out a number of projects using oral history as a method for the study of cultural production in Brazil, I am developing a project focused on the history and development of our oral history, understood both as a method and as an intellectual field.
For this project, I am interested primarily in reconstituting personal and institutional enterprises related to the oral history field from the 1950s to today. I particularly focus on the uncommon consolidation of our field in the Brazilian academy – which is strongly linked to the political influence achieved by some Brazilian researchers on an international level. A second focus is on method and methodology (the on-going debates on method): how ideas in oral history were created, received, processed and disseminated in our country. To achieve these goals, I am doing a critical analysis of published works, and I have also been conducting some dozens of interviews with Brazilian researchers,. These interviews are a valuable resource, allowing a deeper discussion of concepts underlying the practice of oral history.
This project will result in my doctoral dissertation, to be defended at the University of São Paulo, with a scholarship granted by the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp). At the University, I am also a researcher at the Center for Study and Research in Oral History and Memory (GEPHOM), founded in 2009 and which has been active in the study of sociability in the Eastern Zone of São Paulo, in the connections between culture and migration, and in the theoretical and methodological debates on oral history and memory. Our current projects include a historiography of Brazilian works utilizing oral history to study historical and contemporary immigration, conducted by Valéria Barbosa de Magalhães and I, funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).
It will be very rewarding to maintain correspondence with foreign researchers who: 1) have had contact with Brazilian oral history (texts, articles, people, institutions) and are willing to share their views and experiences of our production; and 2) are carrying out projects on the history of oral history in their own countries, from the point of view of intellectual or political history.
Universidade de São Paulo, SP, Brazil
Email: [email protected]
Spanish Women in Transition: An Oral History Project
When sociologists and historians point out the parallels between European political changes of the twentieth century and the transformations in the lives of women, it is necessary to mention the special case of Spain, where evolution occurred in a time period considerably shorter than other European countries. In fact, common phrases like “amazing trajectory” or “difficult transition” could be used to describe the life of Spanish women in the second half of the twentieth century.
The purpose of this oral history project is to collect, preserve and provide access to the diverse testimonies of Spanish women who were adults and mothers during the 36 years of Franco’s dictatorship, and who later adapted themselves in various ways to democracy. These testimonies are videotaped, archived and catalogued in a publicly accessible web platform.
In January 2012 we began recruiting pairs of participants for the project and taping interviews. Each pair consists of a Spanish mother born before 1955, and her daughter born between 1950 and 1980. We aimed to achieve a sample of participants which were heterogeneous in socioeconomic levels, ideology or region of origin. The daughters interviewed the mothers on selected topics from a guide that was provided in advance. This was done in order to explore some key issues of the mother’s generation, such as changes in ideas about motherhood and marriage, reproductive rights, women’s education, work, the role of religion, and new forms of social and political participation that arose with the advent of democracy. As regular users of the Internet – the main means of dissemination of this project – the daughters played a key role in the recruitment process. It is they who most frequently respond to the invitation to participate and thus involve, in turn, their mothers:
[…] Immediately I got excited with the idea that my mother, by way of a conversation with me, could leave a record of her experiences in the transition period, which always seemed to me paradigmatic of her generation, on the one hand, and unique and highly original on another hand[…]
For her, and for me, it would be an honour and a pleasure to put our cooperation in the service of your project, and therefore, of the intrahistory, the true history of Spain, of Spanish men and women […]
This research receives supervision and assistance from Render, a team of Spanish experts working for the preservation of intangible heritage, which has designed Dédalo, software that allows for the filing, categorization, indexing and presentation of videotaped oral histories. It also has translation and subtitling tools that encourage wide and cross-cultural dissemination of the project. The website will be published in August 2012 but it will continue to record and add testimonials after that date.
Traditional notions and widespread social and political participation generally ignore both the contribution of women to processes of political change and how these changes affect their lives. This project reinforces the usefulness of oral history methods to achieve a better understanding of the influence of the gender variable in the process of political transition. We would like, moreover, to supplement the written records of the Spanish transition, and to provide access to media files that can benefit other disciplines, as well as explore new technological possibilities and spaces within the area of feminine oral testimony.
I do not know if you remember what Méndez Núñez Avenue was […] Well, there were stone benches, I sat there and there we made friends […] We were asking the question of how children came into the world, and we were really very happy because we knew we had to go through the navel. […] But this was when we were 14 or 15 years old … And we were all happy, eh? Because no said, “No, silly, you’re really silly … you leave from here and enter there” […] So now … you can imagine how it was.
***It was your father who decided … he went to talk to your grandmother … and he said he was going to marry me and that under no circumstances he wanted it … that he would continue going to college […]
[…] And I was about to separate from him […] and my mother told me that I was married for life … She said this exact lovely phrase to me, “That’s the spoon with which you have to move the coffee” […] so I took the little girl under my arm and went back to my house.
So … that was one of the reasons why I committed myself and I committed myself that you all would have your careers and you would have your lives secured, so that never in your life would you have to depend on your husbands […]
Project by Aránzazu Borrachero (City University of New York) and Guadalupe Sánchez-Suárez (University Nebrija).
Contact: [email protected]
New website of the SFO: House of Oral Sources, Madrid
This is the website of the Cultural Association, the House of Oral Sources – UCM “Maria Carmen Garcia-Nieto”, Spain. We are commited to incorporating new technologies in order to ease the tasks of historians. We are adapting to the changing times and make our trade on what technology brings us. With this website (in Spanish) we intend, firstly, to give greater visibility to the Cultural Association. We want to bring about better partnerships between sociologists and historians interested in oral sources, as well as relationships between historians in general, social scientists, and the public interested in issues of the Present.
The website has member-only sections that require a password which can be obtained by subscribing to the House of Oral Sources, but the vast majority of content is free. On display are parts of the research projects (those of the SFO), but we have also made visible and audible to the members past and current projects created by sociologists.
There are links to relevant institutions and organizations. There are also a section on who we are. In addition, we have the latest news in relation to the SFO and with Oral History and the Present. Finally, there will also be a section for articles on projects, and of the teaching and methodology of oral history (under construction).