A New Opportunity for Public Engagement

Posted by Erin Jessee

Today, Dr High released a call for papers for a conference entitled “Remembering War, Genocide and Other Human Rights Violations: Oral History, New Media and the Arts.” The conference is being co-hosted by the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling and the Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide and Other Human Rights Violations. Not surprisingly, the central theme of the conference overlaps with several conceptual interests that are presently being negotiated by the Database Building Team in our work on Stories Matter. Of particular relevance are our attempts to design a software that shifts away from the use of transcripts to include more of the original context of the interview, such as sound, emotion and body language, and the challenges we’re facing in developing indexing and tagging terms that can be used as a general guide for generations of students, teachers and other interested users. As a result, we’ve decided to begin working on a paper proposal that will allow us to make the development and database building processes we’re continuing to work toward even more accessible to the public. The team is very excited about the opportunity to take on a more conceptual challenge to balance out the debugging and database building on Stories Matter. For those of you who might be interested in also submitting a paper proposal for the conference, you can find the call for papers below:

Remembering War, Genocide and other Human Rights Violations:
Oral History, New Media and the Arts
CALL FOR PROPOSALS
November 5-8, 2009
The Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling & the Montreal Life Stories Project
Concordia University, Montréal, Québec, Canada
Proposals Due: Monday April 13, 2009

It has frequently been said that we live in an “age of testimony.” Eye-witness accounts from survivors of war, genocide and other human rights violations fill our airwaves and our bookshelves. Large Holocaust testimony projects such as Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation have recorded tens of thousands of survivors. Thousands more have told their horrific stories to truth and reconciliation commissions and international tribunals in a growing number of countries including Canada.

Oral history, we believe, has a pivotal role to play in educating ourselves and our communities about the social preconditions, experiences and long-term repercussions of war, genocide and other human rights abuses (broadly defined). What do people remember and why? How have we approached the interview? Digital technologies and the arts have likewise opened up new possibilities for community engagement and research. In what ways have we incorporated the life stories of survivors in art, documentary media and practice, performance, museum exhibition, classroom pedagogy, and other digital environments? When is oral history and storytelling a catalyst for collective dialogue and political action? Digital technologies and the arts have opened up exciting new possibilities for community engagement and research. How do we share the stories that we record?

We invite proposals in English and French from a wide range of community-based projects, university researchers, artists and educators, whose work is publicly engaged and intellectually consequential. Please indicate if you are proposing an individual presentation or panel session, one hour workshop, short performance, film screening/discussion, or booth/display. We are hoping to avoid concurrent sessions if possible. You are asked to submit a 250 word proposal, curriculum vitae, and a short biographical statement (to be placed on the web site if your proposal is accepted) by Monday April 13, 2009. Please send your proposals to Steven High, Canada Research Chair in Public History, at shigh@alcor.concordia.ca .

The conference is co-sponsored by the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University (http://storytelling.concordia.ca) and the Life Stories of Montrealers displaced by War and Genocide project (www.lifestoriesmontreal.ca), an ambitious five year Community University Research Alliance that is comprised of 40 researchers and 18 community partners from the city’s Rwandan, Cambodian, Jewish and Haitian communities as well as arts, education and human rights organizations. A publication, perhaps an anthology, is expected to result.

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