Return to Summer Institute Home

2012 Summer Institute — What Is Remembered: Life Story Approaches in Human Rights Contexts

Recap by Mary Marshall Clark, CCOHR Director

The inspiration for the 2012 Summer Institute, “What Is Remembered: Life Story Approaches in Human Rights Contexts,” came directly from a series of conversations I had with Dr. George Gavrilis, director of the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, beginning in the fall of 2012. George, who had directed our Council on Foreign Relations Project a few years before, stopped by the Center to discuss oral history and global relations.

A few weeks later, after our conversation, George called back suggesting that the Hollings Center could hold a Higher Education Dialogue in Istanbul the following February that focused on how to connect oral historians to address conflicts as they relate to mostly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, while bringing U.S.-based oral historians into the dialogue withscholars and practitioners there. That successful dialogue inspired me to expand our Summer Institute to develop a focus on human rights globally and to begin the process of producing a human rights guide for using oral history in situations of ongoing conflict.

Concretely, the scholarships funded by the Hollings Center grant allowed us to develop the most diverse Institute since our founding 18 years ago, with representatives from 12 countries including Afghanistan, Nepal, Turkey, Iraq, and Colombia, among others. Themes we discussed included the uses of oral history in prisons, detention centers, communities, and neighborhoods devastated by war, economic hardships, or ecological disasters. Taylor Krauss, founder of Voices of Rwanda, discussed the uses of oral history in documenting the history of genocide.

Ramazan Aras, of Turkey, presented on his ethnographic interviewing in situations of ongoing conflict in which he documents the stories of those who have suffered violence as well as its perpetrators. Mohammad Mohaqqeq, of Afghanistan, led a forum on the potential uses of oral history across zones of intra-ethnic conflict to reimagine the future of his nation. Lucine Taminian, a scholar living in Jordan, presented the results of her interviews with more than 180 displaced Iraqis.

Our permanent faculty, Peter Bearman, Alessandro Portelli, Ronald Grele, and Linda Shopes, offered sage advice on the capacity of oral history as a field to expand dialogues beyond their expected borders. Our newest core faculty member, Doug Boyd, demonstrated the capacity of oral history to enter the realm of new and social media, and enthused the audience about its democratizing and global force.

Our fellows, who came to present on diverse themes from disability rights to prison advocacy to work in tribunals, greatly benefited from meeting each other. Collaborations were fostered and bridges were created that continue to inspire collaborative work. In short, the Hollings Center’s support of our Summer Institute deepened and enlivened the work we began in Istanbul in February of 2012