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2018 Symposium – Oral History and the Emotions

July 29, 2018 @ 10:00 am - 4:30 pm

CO.AS.IT. Museo Italiano, Carlton, Melbourne, Sunday 29 July 2018

Happy laughs, quiet sobs, difficult silences and traumatic memories have always been the matter of Oral History. Emotions have played a key role in the theory and practice of Oral History. In recent years, the emotional and ‘affective’ turn in social sciences and humanities has also seen the emergence of the history of emotions as a burgeoning field of studies: how has our understanding of love, hatred, fear and many other emotions changed over time; and how have emotions influenced political events and impacted profound social and cultural changes in our society?

Keynote: Katie Holmes

Recording emotions in the Australian Generations Oral History Project

During the life history interviews conducted for the Australian Generations oral history project, I regularly found myself with interviewees who expressed emotions of deep distress as they recalled past events. I found myself wondering: how do we interpret these emotions? Do they have historical meaning? If so, how can we know what it is? Through a discussion of one particular interview, this paper will suggest that in order to understand the expression of emotion in oral history interviews we need to view not only the process of remembering in a life history interview; we also must view that process through a set of entangled relationships between the time of the event and the time of the telling, and between the intersubjectivities present in the interview itself—that is, between interviewee and interviewer.

Katie Holmes is professor of history at La Trobe University, and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Inland. She was a chief investigator on ‘Australian Generations: life histories, generational change and Australian memory.’ Her research interests include oral history, environmental history, and women’s letters and diaries. Her most recent edited collection is Telling Environmental Histories: Intersections of Memory, Narrative and Environment, co-edited with Heather Goodall. Her most recent monograph is Between the Leaves: Stories of Australian Women, Writing and Gardens.

The other papers at this year’s symposium are:
  • Annabelle Baldwin, ‘And What happened next?’ Revelations of sexual violence in Holocaust testimonies
  • Portia Dilena, Listening against the grain
  • Geraldine Fela, ‘I felt like nurse death’: Australian nurses and the AIDS crisis
  • Miranda Francis, What emotion do mothers leave out when they tell their stories?
  • Francesco Ricatti, Embodying phantasmatic memories of migration: a case study
  • Jordana Silverstein, ‘He died on my watch’: Oral histories of Australian policy-making for child refugees
  • Al Thomson, Indexing Emotion: Joy and shame in oral history
  • 5-minute lightning presentation: Matthew Davis, Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West. 

The full program is available below.

Booking

Register via Eventbrite for this event: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/ohv-2018-symposium-oral-history-and-the-emotions-tickets-46555376384

Registration – Members $50, Student/Concession/non-Melbourne metro* $25, Non-Members Full Price $90, Non-Members Student/Concession $55.
Lunch and afternoon tea will be provided (please advise of dietary requirements when booking).

OHV reserves the right to cancel this event in the case of unforeseen circumstances, in which case a full refund will be made. Otherwise OHV maintains a strict ‘no refund’ policy.

*Regional  outreach discount: Some regional members noted in our recent survey that it was difficult to attend events. We do have a regional event planned for Gippsland later this year and hope to offer further regional events in future years. In response to concerns from regional members about access to events, we’re pleased to be able to offer a regional members discount to attend our upcoming symposium to help subsidise the costs associated with travel. If you are a regional member you are entitled to attend the 29 July symposium at the ‘concession’ rate.

NB: Please be aware that some of the symposium content and discussion may be emotionally and/or intellectually challenging (or confronting). Please review the full program below.

2018 OHV Symposium Program

Keynote: Katie Holmes

Recording emotions in the Australian Generations Oral History Project

During the life history interviews conducted for the Australian Generations oral history project, I regularly found myself with interviewees who expressed emotions of deep distress as they recalled past events. I found myself wondering: how do we interpret these emotions? Do they have historical meaning? If so, how can we know what it is? Through a discussion of one particular interview, this paper will suggest that in order to understand the expression of emotion in oral history interviews we need to view not only the process of remembering in a life history interview; we also must view that process through a set of entangled relationships between the time of the event and the time of the telling, and between the intersubjectivities present in the interview itself—that is, between interviewee and interviewer.

Katie Holmes is professor of history at La Trobe University, and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Inland. She was a chief investigator on ‘Australian Generations: life histories, generational change and Australian memory.’ Her research interests include oral history, environmental history, and women’s letters and diaries. Her most recent edited collection is Telling Environmental Histories: Intersections of Memory, Narrative and Environment, co-edited with Heather Goodall. Her most recent monograph is Between the Leaves: Stories of Australian Women, Writing and Gardens.

Abstracts

Annabella Baldwin

‘And what happens next?’ Revelations of sexual violence in the holocaust

After a survivor reveals an experience of sexual violence during the Holocaust in an interview, what comes next is particularly important, both in the context of the interview and for the historian. For the survivor, talking about this experience (often for the first time since the war) is often one of great emotion and trauma. These women relive their experiences of sexual assault while giving their memories voice, motivated to put their stories “on the record”. In this paper, I explore “what happens next” in an interview when traumatic memories are shared and consider how these survivors have dealt with their memories over time and in the course of their interviews with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive.

Annabelle Baldwin graduated with a PhD in History from Monash University in 2016. Her research examines sexual violence against Jewish women during the Holocaust, and how these stories are narrated in the Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive.

Matthew Davis

Melbourne’s living museums

Since its formation in 1984, Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West has actively involved the people of Melbourne’s West and others in documenting, preserving and interpreting the richness and depth of the region’s social, industrial and environmental history. The museum holds a collection of some 1000 oral history interviews that document the lived heritage and stories of working life, immigration, community and the environment in the western regions of Melbourne.  This presentation will give a brief overview of the operational philosophies of the museum before looking at examples from the collection and its representations of the experiences, emotions, and memories of life in Melbourne’s West.

Matthew Davis is an artist and archivist; he has been a member of Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West’s Committee of Management since 2016.

Portia Dilena

Listening against the grains

Protest is an inherently emotional act, yet for student protestors in 1960s Australia this was a damaging accusation. In an attempt to legitimise their actions, students depicted their protests as a rational pursuit. This denial of emotion proves problematic for oral history researchers attempting to reveal the role of emotions in student protest. This paper will demonstrate the different techniques that can be employed to uncover emotions in oral history interviews when they do not want to be exposed. By listening against the grain, emotions can be written back into a history where they were intentionally written out.

Portia Dilena has just commenced a scholarship awarded Ph.D. candidature at La Trobe University, focusing on the role of emotions in Australian student protest.

Geraldine Fela

‘I felt like nurse death’: Australian nurses and the AIDS crisis

During Australia’s AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s nurses were at the frontline of care. Nurses provided physical and emotional support as well as political solidarity to people living with HIV/AIDS. This paper investigates the oral testimony of six HIV/AIDS nurses collected in 2017 and will explore the complexity of emotion that these nurses associate with the AIDS crisis, from joy and pride to fear and sadness. Drawing on Ann Cvetkovichs’ work the paper argues that oral history is uniquely able to create ‘an archive of feelings’ which captures ‘political history as affective history’.

Geraldine Fela is a PhD Candidate at Monash University, her research investigates the role of Australian nurses in the AIDS crisis.

Miranda Francis

What emotion do mothers leave out when they tell their stories?

This paper concerns a single interview in which my interviewee provided a fluent but not particularly challenging account of her mothering experiences. When the interview was over, she then gave what was effectively a second off-the-record interview which was deeply distressing and considerably at variance with the recorded interview. Not only was this emotionally disturbing to me as an interviewer but it presented me with interpretative challenges. Unable to use, but also unable to ignore, the unrecorded account, I found the dissonance gave me an insight into what an account stripped of emotion might look like.

Miranda Francis is PhD student at La Trobe University working with women’s memories of mothering in suburban Melbourne.

Francesco Ricatti

Embodying phantasmatic memories of migration and trauma: a case study

This paper is based on oral history interviews recorded in 2016-17 with 90-year-old Nora (not her real name). Born in New Zealand in the late 1920s from a French mother and a Chinese father, Nora was taken away by her father as a child, and left to live with relatives in Hong Kong and then China. Here, during WWII and the Japanese occupation, she experienced harrowing events, including abuse, exploitation and starvation. She also witnessed indescribable violence and cruelty. After WWII, she moved to Australia, where she experienced further abuse and exploitation, while being haunted by traumatic memories and by a terrible promise she had made to her father. Through Nora’s story, this paper considers how traumatic experiences are recalled and shared by individuals though archetypical and uncanny narratives; and how phantasmatic memories of trauma continue to be inscribed in, and experienced through, the body, long after the end of the traumatic events. These phantasmatic, yet deeply embodied, memories and narratives should be at the core of our understanding of how the past live in the present, and it turns into history, myth, or silence.

Francesco Ricatti is Cassamarca Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies at Monash University. His research focuses on migration history, football history, and the history of emotions.

Alistair Thomson

Indexing Emotion: Joy and shame in oral history

This paper will examine how we indexed emotion for the Australian Lives book, drawing from the Australian Generations project (300 interviews recorded between 2011 and 2014). I will reflect on what we can learn when we follow the links for one or other emotion—from joy to shame, anger to love—and hear how emotions are culturally bound and are experienced and felt in different ways in different times and cultures.

Alistair Thomson is Professor of History at Monash University and president of Oral History Australia. His most recent book Australian Lives: An Intimate History (with Anisa Puri) is based on the Australian Generations oral history project.

Jordana Silverstein

‘He died on my watch’: Oral history of Australian policy-making for child refugees

For my postdoctoral research project I’m interviewing people who have been involved in making policy directed towards child refugees from the 1970s to the present. In this paper I am interested in exploring the emotions which arise in those interviews. In particular, I will explore who and what those emotions are directed towards, and what ideas of politics, the Australian nation, and child refugees, they instantiate. Following Sara Ahmed’s work on the sociability of emotions, in this paper I want to think through the ways that an emotional border to the Australian nation is constructed within the space of the oral history interview.

Jordy Silverstein is a historian based at the University of Melbourne, working as part of the ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship Project ‘Child Refugees and Australian Internationalism: 1920 to the Present.’

Details

Date:
July 29, 2018
Time:
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Event Category:

Venue

CO.AS.IT – Museo Italiano
199 Faraday Street
Carlton, VIC 3053 Australia
+ Google Map
Phone:
93499000
Website:
museoitaliano.com.au