Here we are, a week away from spring break and at the start of the research phase of our class. Between now and March 22 each of you will conduct an oral history; prepare it for archiving; transcribe it; journal about it; and turn everything in.
I’m sure you are feeling and will feel many emotions along the way. I hope one of them is an immense sense of reverence for the opportunity to learn about how another person makes sense of our world, and to preserve that record for posterity.
REMINDERS & TO-DOs
- If you haven’t already, please email me with your preferred Google account so I can give you access to our shared “CONTACT” sheet.
- Please complete the form (linked here) to share your mailing address with me.
- While we have enough people to interview overall, you are more than welcome to identify and invite a person you think would make a good interview. Identifying folks to interview in relation to a larger project is a fun part of the oral history process. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you an opportunity to participate in that way.
On Monday we’ll read and discuss three readings: “Oral History Interviewing: The Good Interview,” by Ron Grele [07_Grele.pdf]; “Conducting Interviews,” by Donald Ritchie [08_Ritchie.pdf]; and “Why Call It Oral History? Some Ruminations From the Field,” also by Grele [09_Grele.pdf]. We’ll use these to talk a little more about what it is we are preparing to do, and how we can do it well.
We’ll also spend time workshopping our individual “interview guides.” Please work on yours more between now and Monday, identifying and organizing your topical areas and writing questions that inspire story on those topics. As we discussed, pay some attention to creating two or three “concluding questions,” a final question you can ask that gives one parting opportunity for meaning-making and sharing.
To help you with your interview guide I’ve shared the one from last class with you. A link to it and other important documents can be found in our Schedule page.
On Wednesday, we’ll learn how to do some basic functions using Audacity. Audacity is free (and open-source) audio editing and creation software. You can download it here. Please do so and install it on your computer.
We’ll spend the rest of our time finalizing our interview guides and, of course, giving each of you the contact information for your first interview.
This week we’ll focus our collective effort on two “ends” of the work of oral history. We’ll start at the back end, with two readings that can help us think more fully about how we make sense of (interpret) oral history narratives. Then we’ll cover the front end, and learn about the technology we’ll use to record our interviews.
I’m looking forward to our discussion on MONDAY, when we’ll read “Telling Tales: Oral History and the construction of pre-Stonewall lesbian history,” by the amazing Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy. We’ll also read an article by the equally amazing Alberto Ledesma, titled “On the Grammar of Silence: The Structure of My Undocumented Immigrant Writer’s Block.”
The pieces don’t intentionally speak to each other (or even speak about the same topic or theme) but they do help inform us about the ways we can (and should) prepare to interpret the narratives we record. In your Journal Entry 3, make an attempt to analyze both, whether separately or together. We’ll use those initial thoughts as the starting point for our in-class discussion.
On WEDNESDAY we’ll have a workshop on some of the technological aspects of recording oral interviews from afar. Specifically, we’ll be learning how to use Zencastr. Before we meet, please visit the Zencastr website and create a free account for yourself. We’ll also work more collaboratively on building out our interview guides.
We’re getting close to the period when we’ll record our first oral interview. If you know a Latinx person who is willing to share their thoughts on their work life, feel free to send me their contact information.
Happy Valentine’s weekend! Things being what they are, this “special” day might be just like any other day. (This is my first pandemic and yet that’s been most of my Valentines. At least you can blame it on COVID!) If we were meeting in person, I would have consoled you with pounds of candy. So, if you can, while you’re reading this week treat yourself to something sweet.
For our first class this week we’ll read and discuss “The Quiet Life” and “Cradle to the Grave,” two other sections from the Studs Terkel book. You’ll also write Journal Entry 2, using that space to interpret and analyze the “testimonios” you read in these sections of Working. We’ll use some of our class time to listen to a few more audio stories about Terkel’s interviewees as we try to organize some of what we’ve learned about work.
In our second class we’ll talk a little bit more about the “interview guide.” We’ll also read and discuss an article, “Ethics and Interpersonal Relationships in Oral History Research,” written by oral historian Valerie Yow (04_Yow.pdf). Yow is the author of the most used handbook in oral history. In this piece, she’ll introduce us to some ethical concerns we should have.
This class will be something of a mini-transition for us as we leave behind Terkel’s work on work and start to read other oral historians that (like Roque Ramírez last week) use their research as a platform to think more broadly about issues related to the practice and use of oral history. This will slowly lead into some workshops for us as we learn how to do what we’re here to do.
So, until next time, stay safe and be well…
This week we’ll continue our exploration of oral history and work, and also start to build out our “interview guide” of oral history questions.
We’ll read and discuss four more sections from the book by Studs Terkel—“Cleaning Up,” “Watching,” “Footwork,” and “Just a Housewife.” As you read these parts of the book, select two or three quotes that really stood out for you. Now write a few questions an oral historian might ask to help generate a story like that. Add your questions to the last (bottom) page in your journal on Google Docs, a page you should have titled “Interview Guide.”
We’ll discuss the readings in class, being mindful to build our comprehension of the factual details each provides AND our interpretation of meanings we can derive from each. We’ll also get to learn more about some of Terkel’s interviewees after the publication of Working.
We’ll read and discuss one of my favorite pieces by one of my favorite oral historians, Horacio Roque Ramírez. “A Living Archive of Desire: Teresita La Campesina and the Embodiment of Queer Latino Community Histories” (03_RoqueRamirez.pdf on Sakai) will give us a chance to think about the theory and practice of oral history through the intersection of Latinx and Trans histories. I’m looking forward to discussing it with you.
I really enjoyed our first two classes. Our discussion was really good. It’s always nice to meet new people and reconnect with those we know, but none of that is a guarantee for a healthy discussion. We’ll certainly evolve as a learning community in the weeks ahead, but last week was a really good start. This week, we’ll try to build on that.
We’ll read and discuss two pieces during Monday’s class. The first is a short but thoughtful essay by Ronald J. Grele. We talked a little but about Grele in our last class. He’s the former head of the Columbia University oral history program, and a past president of the Oral History Association. He’s not only a legend in the oral history world, he’s an important part of the reason we do things the way that we do. His “Reflections on the Practice of Oral History: Retrieving What We Can From an Earlier Critique” is on Sakai as 02_Grele.pdf.
Our other reading is an early journal article by one of the most prolific Chicano historians, Mario T. García. Called “Chicano History: An Oral History Approach,” it presents some initial thoughts on the need for oral history when researching the Chicano past. This article is available online.
On Wednesday, we’ll start to read actual chapters from the book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How they Feel About What They Do, by the great Studs Terkel. I don’t know which print edition you’ll be using, so the sections to read are titled “Working the Land,” “Communications,” and “A Pecking Order.” (In the 1997 edition that’s pages 29-65).
On Wednesday you’ll also write your first “formal” (or graded) journal entry. Your Journal Entry 1 assignment should be one to two pages long and follow the class writing guidelines. Most importantly, it’s a chance for you analyze some aspect of the readings. Tell us something about the way you’re making sense (or assigning meaning) to what we read. And don’t just tell us—show us. Use quotes to make your point and help us to see how you arrived at your conclusions.
If you haven’t already, remember to create your online journal in Google Drive and share it with me, making sure to give me editor privileges. That way I can read it and engage with you by typing comments.
Week one is behind us. Now the our online learning adventure begins. I’ll see you next week! Be well until then…
Welcome to the website for our Spring 2021 course “Latinx Oral Histories” (HIST 101S CH PO).
WHO AM I?
I’m I’m Tomás Summers Sandoval, but you can call me “Profe.” I’m an Associate Professor of History and Chicanx~Latinx Studies at Pomona College, and the Coordinator of Pomona’s Chicanx-Latinx Studies Program. Most importantly, I’m really excited to learn with you over the next semester!
WHAT IS THIS?
This website is our primary online home and the main way we’ll communicate with each other when we’re not in class. We’ll use Sakai for only a few things (most importantly, it will be where you access all of your readings for the semester). This website is where I’ll post weekly announcements (right here on the front page) and field any questions that may arise.
In the pages above you’ll find just about everything you need to know about our class: our description and “commitment”; our learning outcomes; assignments; grading policies; and information about our readings. In the password-protected “Schedule” page, you’ll find a detailed list of the work you’re expected to do each week. (The password to access the “Schedule” page is on Sakai now.)
WHAT WILL WEEK 1 BE LIKE?
On Monday we’ll start the process of getting to know each other and our class. We’ll continue those processes on Wednesday, but we’ll also start to read and discuss a book that will be foundational for our class. It’s called Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How they Feel About What They Do and it’s written by Studs Terkel (a legend of the oral history field). For Wednesday we’ll only read the Introduction to the book, which is provided to you via Sakai as 01_Terkel.pdf. (Links to purchase the whole book are on the Readings page above.)
While we all hope this semester will bear witness to a greatly improved public health reality––one that will bring us back to the normalcy we all miss––we are still learning together in a challenging time. Times like these require creativity, flexibility, and collective effort. I’ve put a lot of work into designing a course that makes sense for these times, but its success is going to rely on you, too. As we face the road ahead, I hope you will gain strength and purpose from what we know for certain: we are stronger, smarter, and better as a group than we can ever be as individuals.
Our time together begins Monday, January 25 at 11:00 a.m. (Pacific time). You’ll find the information you need to login to our Zoom classroom on Sakai. I look forward to seeing you then.