UNIVERSITY OF THESSALY
Bridging generations: interdisciplinarity and life stories in the 21st century
Oral history and life history approaches in the social sciences
Volos, 25-27 May 2012
Call for papers
The aim of this conference is to contribute to the creation of an interdisciplinary community of researchers working in the fields of oral history, memory studies and the biographical approach in the social sciences. Researchers from different disciplines use life stories to explore human lived experiences, the multiple interconnections between the individual and society, the ways in which subjectivities are constructed and determined by social and historical factors. Oral history and the biographical approach provide excellent tools to explore how social agents face abrupt social change and ruptures in their daily lives, related to political or economic crisis, (forced) migration, the deregularization of labour relations and the deconstruction of the welfare state. Oral history has been also linked to the democratization of history and to the emergence of subjects that had been excluded from the narratives of history. To what extent has oral history been recognized as a legitimate field of historical knowledge?
In this conference we want to take stock of the developments in these fields in Greece over the last ten years and to link them to the theoretical and methodological debates going on elsewhere in the world. A central question which concerns us is whether the institutional recognition of oral history, as well as the “memory boom” of the 1990s and the use of digital media in mass communications have moved oral history away from its initial objectives: to contribute to a critical approach to social phenomena and to connect historical and social research with the communities we study (for a relevant debate, see http://www.iohanet.org.debate
. In the period of crisis we are living through, this question acquires new meanings. With the participation of leading scholars in the field, the conference aims to create a space where old and new generations can meet and exchange their knowledge. The title of the conference “bridging generations” thus concerns both the narrative interview itself, where knowledge and meanings are transmitted from one generation to the next, and the encounter between two generations of researchers involved with biographical research. A second goal of the conference is to create a Greek Oral History Association as a new national section of the International Oral History Association.
With this perspective we invite you to take part in the conference and present a paper, focusing in particular on the peculiarities of oral evidence as a source of knowledge which can give new insights into our societies through the encounter of the subjectivity of our narrators with the collective processes of history and society.
We propose the following themes for the conference:
- Oral history and the community
Today our societies are characterized by extreme individualism, but at the same time new collectivities emerge which reclaim a voice in the public space. In this context, the notion of community acquires new meanings, very different from the old tradition of “community studies”. We are particularly interested in the following questions: a) how can individual narratives contribute to the formation of a sense of community? b) in which ways can oral history contribute to the empowerment of (local and globalised) communities to help them face the challenges of the present? c) what is the contribution of oral narratives in improving mutual understanding within divided or multi-cultural communities? d) how can we “give back” our research findings to the communities we study? e) how can local communities create their own narratives on the past, the present and the future?
- Oral history and digital media
The diffusion of digital technologies has brought radical changes not only in biographical research, but also in the media, in museums and in the “social media”. We would like to see, first of all, some good examples of how digital media can be used in providing access to oral narratives, for example in museum exhibitions and through the Internet. At the same time, however, we want to problematize this relation through questions such as a) what are the new (national or global) power relations or forms of resistance that can be created through digital technologies? b) in which ways can digital technology contribute to an anthropology of the senses? What do we gain and what do we lose by adding image to sound? c) to what extent do media such as YouTube contribute to a new form of uncritical master narratives? d) in which ways has the creation of audiovisual archives influenced the notion of the archive, which has served as a metonym for history?
- Oral history in periods of crisis
This theme concerns on the one hand periods of crisis of the past (war, civil wars, natural disasters) and on the other the present economic crisis which affects all societies in the world, but especially Europe. Greece finds itself in the eye of the storm and has already changed radically after only two years of austerity measures. These experiences are emblematic for the social and political consequences that may be produced in other countries as well. Therefore, it is a privileged field for research on the new social dynamics created by the crisis. Do we have already some examples of such research with the use of oral narratives and how can we record these experiences?
- Oral history in education
The international experience has shown that oral history programmes developed in schools can produce excellent results in the development of critical historical thought and of the research abilities of students, but can also help them to reconnect with the learning process when they have withdrawn. Which are the possibilities to develop such programmes in Greece and what examples do we have already? In the second place, now that education is rapidly changing all over Europe, it seems particular important to study older educational practices and the way they are changing today, by using oral sources.
- Oral history and memory studies
Since the 1980s oral history and biographical research have contributed significantly to the improvement of our understanding of the processes through which individual and social memory are constructed. Yet, during the last two decades academic interest seems to have shifted to the study of public memory (sites of memory, politics of memory). This field of “memory studies” has often ignored the theoretical insights of oral history and rarely uses oral narratives as a source of knowledge. How can we bridge this gap? Some of the topics which might concern us here are the relation between individual and collective memory, the role of subjectively lived experience in relation with broader social and political processes and the techniques of analysis of oral narratives.
If you are interested in participating in this conference, you are kindly invited to send a title and abstract, indicating the topic that interests you, until February, 28, 2012, to the following email address:email@example.com
The organizing committee
Riki Van Boeschoten – University of Thessaly
Tasoula Vervenioti – Greek Open University
Maria Thanopoulou – EKKE (National Centre for Social Research)
Irini Nakou – University of Thesaly
Konstandina Bada – University of Ioannina
Pothiti Hantzaroula – University of the Aegean
Yorgos Tsiolis – University of Crete