International oral history association conference: memory & narration

8 Oct 2018 - 08:00
Poster of the IOHA 2018 Memory & Narration Conference


APC research associate Jo-Anne Duggan attended the 10th Conference of the international Oral History Association (IOHA) hosted by the Finnish Oral History Network, the University of Jyväskylä and the Finnish Literature Society in the city of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Papers addressing the theme of the conference, Memory & Narration, focussed on the complex and multidimensional nature of oral history. They drew attention to a broad range of methodological issues, diverse perspective and the particular issues challenges encountered in the production and analysis of oral histories and life stories as narratives /narration.

The programme spanned four days, with numerous parallel sessions. Choosing from the wide array of themes covered in each session proved quite difficult for many delegates. Sean Field, from the Department of UCT Historical Studies chaired and participated in a well-attended session entitled Troubling Trauma: Oral History in Conflict-Affected Settings which focused on case studies from South Africa (Sean Field and Jo-Anne Duggan), Rwanda (Erin Jesse) and Mozambique (Jonna Katto).

Personal highlights include, the Pre-Conference Workshop: Particularities of Interviewing Traumatized People, in which speakers and delegates raised some interesting questions, challenging prevailing notions of 'trauma'. Professor Paula Hamilton's keynote address, Rethinking Oral History and the Landscape of Memory, which reflected on the limits of oral history and the concept of "narrative wreckage" drew attention to the uncomfortable disconnect between oral history studies and memory studies. Alessandro Portelli's delightful but profound keynote address, Working Class Culture and Globalization, which began with a recording of a Bob Dylan song, reflected on migration and cultural change as evidenced through the songs of migrants, merchants and travellers.

The conference attracted over well over 300 delegates from more than 50 countries on every continent. Only six African countries were represented: South Africa, Namibia, Uganda, Egypt and Nigeria. Duggan was elected to the IOHA Council, as the representative from Africa and looks forward to networking with oral historians across the continent to ensure a stronger presence at the 2020 conference.