Oral history in PNG

“In 2006, University of Virginia anthropologist Lise Dobrin received a document attached to an email from a man she knew in Papua New Guinea, where she had conducted fieldwork for her dissertation several years earlier. The document told the story of the history of the man’s village. He wrote that he was afraid if he didn’t write it, no one else would.” Read full story here.

Interviewing after natural disasters

Sometime after 10 p.m. on August 27, 2018, Judy and Richard Mixter were keeping an eye on a late summer storm that just wouldn’t let up.  The Coon Valley couple noticed some flooding in their backyard. Richard heard some water seeping into their finished basement, so he went downstairs and did what he could to keep things dry.  The Mixter’s story is part of an oral history project in southwestern Wisconsin called “Stories from the Flood,” an innovative approach to trauma spearheaded by the Driftless Writing Center of Viroqua. “From the beginning we wanted to help people heal and move forward. I think that has happened, it has happened individually and in a group setting,” said Tamera Dean, the director of “Stories from the Flood.”

Here in Australia we are no strangers to natural disasters – floods, drought, bush-fires. This story is about a community’s response to a natural disaster here. Perhaps we can learn from it.

Oral History Award (USA)

Author Doug Stanton has won the Stephen E. Ambrose Oral History Award for his contribution to the practice and research application of oral history used in his published works on America’s military and wartime experiences from World War II to the War in Afghanistan. Stanton, who lives in Traverse City, has authored three books: “In Harm’s Way,” “Horse Soldiers” (made into the movie “12 Strong”) and “The Odyssey of Echo Company.” Read full story here.

Italian Holocaust Survivor Dies

“Piero Terracina was 15 years old in 1944 when two SS soldiers entered the home in Rome where he and his parents, his grandfather, his two brothers and sister and an uncle had gathered to celebrate Passover. They were deported to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland, where only Mr. Terracina emerged alive. After maintaining a long silence about his experience in the camp — an existence that he compared to a double life, as he went about his normal activities by day and endured nightmares of Auschwitz by night — Mr. Terracina found purpose and meaning as one of Italy’s most prominent witnesses to the Holocaust.” Read full story, including links to oral history here.

Human cleanliness

“Why are there so many kinds of body wash? It’s simple. Thanks to corporate marketing campaigns, indoor plumbing and washing machines we are a spiffy-clean bunch who apparently demand shopping-carts-full of passion fruit and lavender-scented liquid soap. But why?” This is a book inspired by an oral history the author did with his father about how often he bathed. Read full story here.

Changing India/Pakistan narrative

“India and Pakistan still define themselves in opposition to each other, claiming to be everything the other is not – more pious, righteous, secular, progressive than those across the border. Patriotism is more often than not based on hostility towards the other,” stresses Pakistani author Anam Zakaria, whose third book ‘1971’ (Penguin) will be released in India soon. See full article here.

Family Stories

“When was the last time you talked with your parents before you met up with them for Thanksgiving? A survey by a company that writes family biographies says a quarter of Americans go more than a month without speaking with their folks, and now could be the best time to start gathering an oral history.” This story is about American Thanksgiving, but could be applied also to Christmas. Read more.

Native Americans’ Stories

When I was sixteen years old, I took what was essentially my first trip to Indian Country. I rode the train north across Ontario and on to Winnipeg. Crowds shuffled in and out at stops in small towns along the way. With each stop, more and more blue- and green-eyed passengers departed until almost all eyes remaining were dark brown. Skin became darker too. I looked around at the other Native passengers for signs of recognition. I remember thinking that they saw in my eyes what few people ever did—that I was one of them. Read full story here.

The Story of Seeds

78 percent of the world’s seeds are now owned by three companies, and it’s those companies who decide which ones to make available to the public. 
That’s quite a turnaround from America’s early years, when the U.S. government was giving billions of seeds away for free. But it’s not just the variety of seeds being lost, it’s also the history that those seeds represent.  Read full story here.

Legacy of Nuclear Testing in Marshall Islands

The nuclear legacy in the Marshall Islands is having a lingering effect on the handing down of the country’s oral history.  An investigation by the Los Angeles Times examined the high rates of thyroid cancers in the Marshall Islands, where the US detonated dozens of nuclear weapons in the 1940s and ’50s. See full article, including interview here.