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Beyond Testimony and Trauma: Oral History in the Aftermath of Mass Violence


Co-sponsored by the Montreal Life Stories CURA, COHDS, and the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies 
March 22-25, 2012
Concordia University
It is sometimes said that we live in an “age of testimony”. Eyewitness accounts from survivors of war, genocide and other human rights violations fill our airwaves and our bookshelves. Moving passages from survivors’ regularly punctuate the public reports of social justice organizations. Large testimony projects have recorded tens of thousands of individuals. Thousands more have told their horrific stories to truth and reconciliation commissions and courtrooms around the world.
Survivor testimony has developed a conventional form and rhetoric.For the most part, survivors of mass violence are understood as either eyewitnesses to history or as people traumatized by it. Testimony and trauma are thus firmly embedded in legal and medical discourses. Survivor testimony has become familiar; indeed, ubiquitous
The Beyond Testimony and Trauma conference invited participants to reflect on the many ways that oral historians, artists, new media practitioners, educators, and survivors themselves engage with these life stories. It also explored collaborative projects in which survivors become partners and not simply historical sources or objects of study. What are the rightful claims of a more holistic and/or collaborative approach to survivors’ retelling? What are the political and ethical implications of different ways of engaging survivors’ accounts?


Concordia University