Caption: Lisa Ndejuru and Didacienne Nibagwire – Kigali-based actor and 1994 genocide survivor – perform at their main stage event at the 2019 Ubumuntu Arts Festival at the amphitheatre on the grounds of Rwanda’s Gisozi National Genocide Memorial. Their multilingual spoken word piece, created collaboratively at the festival, weaves together an ancient origin story from Rwandan oral tradition and their own life stories of trauma and resilience. December 2019, Photo: David Ward.
The Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling was founded in 2006 by the then Canada Research Chair in Oral History, Dr Steven High, with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Concordia University. COHDS moved into permanent facilities on Concordia’s downtown Montreal campus in 2007. Our central mission is to support the gathering and preservation of the audiovisual oral history record, while encouraging solo, collaborative, and community-based research and creation that respond to living memory and oral testimony. Ethics and shared authority are at the core of our values as a university research centre.
COHDS serves as a point of convergence for research, creation, and teaching about oral history at Concordia, as well providing an on-campus home for community-based researchers and artists, who are an integral part of our Centre. The principle of shared authority guides our approach to research ethics, our administrative structure, the training that we offer, and our public programming. COHDS positions itself as a threshold between the university and the community. As such, COHDS has been home to large-scale research projects including the Montreal Life Stories project, a community-university research alliance funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (2005-2012). Since 2018, COHDS includes the Acts of Listening Lab (ALLab), funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Concordia University, and directed by Dr Luis Sotelo Castro, Canada Research Chair in Oral History Performance and also the second co-director of COHDS. The ALLab is a state of the art performance and recording space located within the Centre. It facilitates interdisciplinary research-creation on the embodied and politicized act of listening to the life stories of people impacted by social trauma. In 2020, we welcomed a new Assistant Professor based at COHDS, Dr Bimadoshka Pucan, whose work explores the use of new digital technologies to access the oral traditions of Indigenous peoples.
With the aim of facilitating a dynamic, interdisciplinary exchange, and robust public research outcomes, COHDS is equipped with cutting-edge audio and video recording equipment, a computer research lab for affiliates, a conference / event room, a dedicated interview room, and an Archive of over 2000 interviews. Please see our Resources and Archives pages for more detail on what we offer our affiliates and the broader research community.
We are proud to have an active community of over 300 professors, students, postdoctoral fellows, visiting artists and researchers, local historians, artists, activists, and organizations. We have a communication and social media network that reaches several thousand people interested in oral history, both here in Montreal and worldwide. Through our workshops, seminars, roundtables, study days, and international conferences, such as the 2018 Oral History Association Conference, our affiliates have numerous opportunities to meet each other, find shared interests, and collaborate. In addition to research publications, our affiliates produce a wide variety of creative and scholarly outcomes, from online digital stories and memoryscapes to audio walks, performances, sound works, podcasts, films, animations, interactive maps, art installations, exhibitions, and so on. Please visit our Research/Creation and Community links for more information.
Do you have questions?
Do not hesitate to contact Dr Sébastien Caquard, Lead Co-Director of COHDS, Dr Luis Sotelo Castro, Director of the Acts of Listening Lab, or Dr Piyusha Chatterjee, COHDS’s Coordinator and Community Facilitator.