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Bulletin of the International Oral History Association (published twice a year)
Volume 17:1, January 2009

From Mouth to Page


Books

AUSTRALIA

My Ngarrindjeri Calling
Authors: Doreen Kartinyeri and Sue Anderson
Price: $34.95 ISBN: 978 0 85575 659 8
Publisher: Aboriginal Studies Press, AIATSIS

Book Review by Catherine Murphy

This important publication, which takes account of what has been lost by Aborigines following white invasion and what Europeans have squandered since that time, asked me to reflect upon my grief about the current degradation of the Murray River, the lower lakes and Coorong and my serious concerns about our survival in the wake of such wanton environmental destruction. This book puts the case, with clarity, that Europeans must act, once and for all, upon the critical need for balance between people and their environments, because this is precarious and needs careful management. It reminds us that we have ignored Aboriginal people and the profound - and at the same time - simple truths they have consistently spoken but we’ve been unable to hear.  

It is the wisdom of the original inhabitants of this land whose knowledge of environmental preservation and conservation has ensured their successful survival through tens of thousands of years and which they expressed through cultural ‘business’. This knowledge thread has been severed by Europeans whose powerful political and legal systems drowned out the voices of people like Doreen Kartinyeri who sought to protect her ancient Ngarrindjeri heritage by working as a conservator, genealogist, historian. This became her ‘calling’, her vocation, and it placed her, inadvertently, in the front line of a long-term and destructive political and media campaign. It was the Ngarrindjeri women who objected, on cultural grounds, to the construction of the bridge between Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island because ‘…our women’s Dreamings (are) that the River Murray mouth is the source of all life…’ (1) 

Doreen was drawn into public activism on this issue and became a spokeswoman for a grass roots campaign against construction of the Hindmarsh Island bridge which dragged on for years and exacted a huge personal cost on her health, her work and her family. (2) Even so, she remained fierce and unflinching to the end, drawing strength from her culture and ancestral traditions and the certainty of her integrity. ‘If I had known what was to happen, before I got involved with the Kumarangk bridge business, I would absolutely have done the same thing no matter what. I’m a fighter.’ (3) 

The Kumarangk (the Ngarrendjeri name for Hindmarsh Island) bridge business is pivotal to the life story Doreen has written. ‘Kumarangk and the surrounding area is the most sacred site we Ngarrindjeri have ever had, it’s our Ayers Rock and we cannot sit back and see it destroyed.’ (4) The book begins with Doreen’s recollection of the day in March 1995 when she learns that a male staffer of Federal Minister Ian McLachlan has ignored Aboriginal cultural protocols by opening sealed envelopes and reading secret information written by Doreen on the proviso that it was never to be read by a man. She knew then that she ‘would pay for this error of judgment’ because she had broken the rule learned from the old people to ‘Never put black history on white paper.’ (5) 

From these opening pages of the book, details of the Kumarangk business unfold and are inter-cut with Doreen’s recollections of her earliest years at Raukkan (formerly the Point Mcleay Aboriginal Mission) and her subsequent years at the Salvation Army Girls’ Home at Fullarton in Adelaide; her early working life; children, fostered children; two marriages and her career as a genealogist. She reflects on a childhood marred by European prejudice and hatred for Aborigines, and on the unfair, punitive government policies which exerted complete control over Aboriginal people’s lives and resulted in unfathomable grief, loss and suffering.  

Doreen repeatedly expresses surprise about her successes, including the awards and accolades she received for her work as a genealogist and historian in her mature years. She finished her formal education at Grade 3, yet went on to leave her mark as a famous and celebrated cultural warrior and academic who established the Aboriginal Family History Unit at the South Australian Museum, was awarded an honorary doctorate and published several books of genealogy. From the earliest pages of the book, Doreen hints at personal traits which consolidate, in later years, into the skills she applies to her work as an historian; her early interest in kinship and in ‘listening’ and the ‘old ways’ she is taught by Aunty Rosie who can draw genealogies in the sand. It’s the memories of these old people, and their oral histories which can’t be taken away, that fascinate, impress and inspire her. It is this middle section of the book (beginning on p 122) which provides fascinating insights into her work as an Aboriginal historian and which held the most significance for me.  

It’s worth reflecting that it’s only a bit more than a couple of decades since Doreen began her ground-breaking genealogical work at the South Australian Museum (1984 until 1995).(6) The oral histories, passed on by elderly relatives, which Doreen carried in her memory for many years, were able to be written down and then validated by Norman Tindale’s famous anthropological research carried out in the 1930s across Australia and stored at the South Australian Museum. In 1984, Norman Tindale gave his written permission for the first Aboriginal person - Doreen - to access his records and materials. This was the beginning of many years researching and then restoring Aboriginal history to the communities in which Tindale had worked. Doreen’s numerous visits to Aboriginal communities in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and across South Australia (including into its prisons), restored the Aboriginal history she was researching to people starved of information about their cultural history and ancestry. Because in the intervening 60 years since Tindale’s visits the old people, who held their community’s unwritten history, had died. This process of taking history back into Aboriginal communities had the effect of revitalizing and restoring individual and group strength, esteem and knowledge. It is an enduring legacy to Doreen’s energetic commitment to this work. 

It is a fascinating bridge which Doreen’s work makes between Aboriginal oral history and European written history. Both modes of recording history are essential to her quest to create an enduring continuum between the old ways and the present through research and publication of Aboriginal family genealogies. Yet there’s tension here, for Doreen remains convinced that in her desire to protect Kumarangk from development, she broke the old people’s rule of never writing black history (‘secret/sacred’ history) on white paper and this was unforgivable. 

Ultimately, it is Aboriginal oral history which was on trial during the Kumarangk bridge business. In a statement written by the Ngarrendjeri women and read by Claire O’Conner at the South Australian Royal Commission into the cultural beliefs of Ngarrendjeri women: ‘…The most common thread linking all Aboriginal peoples is the way in which we record our history. Aboriginal history is recorded orally. It is passed on orally. Does that fact invalidate our history? Aboriginal law is strict and uncompromising. Despite all the efforts both past and present of Government bodies and agents to cast the law aside, stamp it out and ignore it, business exists.’ (7) 

And then it is the modern day practice of oral history which must have the final say here. Because it was the work of a prominent, professional South Australian oral historian, Sue Anderson, who brought Doreen’s stories into publication.  Sue worked alongside Doreen from 2001-2006, to record her history and help structure its narrative. In her Afterword, Sue relates how she and Doreen had written and signed a contract of mutual respect and understanding: ‘We agreed that it would be written for her people in particular and that it had to be as close a representation as possible of her own voice. No more whitefellas interpreting, changing or twisting her words. This is, of course, easier said than done, even with the best of intentions. I have heard, recorded and transcribed Doreen’s words, mixed them around and let them sit there.’ (8)

This book is a rich and rewarding read, which is sometimes startling in the honesty Doreen brings to recollections of her interactions with colleagues, family and friends and those she fought, or the people she felt had betrayed her. At times there’s more details about important events (such as the Kumarangk bridge business), than I was able to absorb or make sense of, because of Doreen’s intensely personal, insider perspective. At the same time it’s worth acknowledging this detailed information will be a treasure trove for future research. 

It’s the compelling story of an Aboriginal woman who is determined to put her experiences on the record and to remain true to her life’s vocation of foregrounding the perspectives, knowledge and ancient wisdom of Aboriginal people and challenging the dominance of white Australian history.  

Catherine Murphy traveled to Alice Springs on the old Ghan in 1982 and discovered, to her astonishment, that first languages (mother tongues), other than English, were spoken in this country. On her return to Adelaide she enrolled in a Graduate Diploma of Aboriginal Studies at the University of South Australia, Holbrooks Road Campus. During this time she began recording the oral and family histories of two Point Pearce Aboriginal elders. ‘As We’ve Known It – 1911 to the present’ by Cec and Doris Graham, was published by Aboriginal Studies Press and launched by Don Dunstan in 1987. Catherine is a member of the Committee of the South Australian Branch of OHAA and has worked on many oral history projects since this time. In the mid-1990s Catherine worked part-time over four years with colleague, Cath Cantlon, on See Saw’, a cross-cultural, community cultural development arts project in Ceduna on the West Coast of South Australia. This project resulted in interactive sculptural works reflecting on cross-cultural reconciliation by local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women, which toured galleries in three Australian States along with a publication documenting this project.  

___ Notes
1. p 169, chapter 7
2. Doreen was born at Raukkan in 1935 and died in 2007
3. p 87, chapter 5
4. p 68, chapter 4
5. p 2, chapter 1
6. Doreen’s first work in this area was with Fay Gale at the Geography Department of the University of Adelaide in 1979.
7. p 176, chapter 8
8. p 206, Afterword http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Iu4H2_jTfQ

BRAZIL

Many Roads, One Star: Memories of Militants of the Laborers' Party PT
Muitos caminhos, uma estrela:Memórias de militantes do PT (Vol. 1).
Editors: Marieta de Moraes Ferreira and Alexandre Fortes
São Paulo: Editora Fundação Perseu Abramo, 2008.

This recently released book – the first in a series of three volumes – results from a partnership between the Center for Research and Recording of Contemporary History of Brazil of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação em História do Brasil Contemporâneo - Fundação Getúlio Vargas CPDOC-FGV)  and the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) official foundation (Fundação Perseu Abramo). Since 2004, both institutions have been combining their efforts in carrying on the PT´s Oral History Project, interviewing forty activists that have played important roles in the foundation of the “Partido dos Trabalhadores” in 1980 and in the party´s building up in the following years. The integral version of the interviews will be made available to researchers in both institutions – respectively in Rio de Janeiro and in São Paulo.

The selection of interviewees had a main focus on regional, social and political diversity. As a result, this collection helps us grasp how a socially-representative, ideologically plural, and multigenerational left come together to construct a new and distinctive political party in a country as vast and diverse as Brazil. Rather than offering party pieties, these interviews with militants, members, and leaders highlight the liveliness of human story-telling in all its individuality. In this first volume, the interviews were in organized in four groups:

  1. Activists that had already been engaged in political activities prior to the 1964 civilian-military coup, or that represent militant traditions that were predominant in that historical moment:
    1. Apolônio de Carvalho, a former military that joined the Brazilian Communist Party in the mid-1930´s, enrolled in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War and played a distinguished role in the French Resistance;
    2. Antonio Candido, one of the most important Brazilian intellectuals, engaged in the efforts for building up socialist democratic groups and parties since the 1940´s;
    3. Manoel da Conceição, peasant leader from the Northeastern state of Maranhão, who joined the Catholic left (later on maoist) clandestine group “Ação Popular”.
  2. Leaders of the late 1970’s “new unionism” from different states and professional groups:
    1. Djalma Bom (metalworker, São Paulo’s ABC region)
    2. Olívio Dutra (bank workers, Rio Grande do Sul)
    3. Luiz Dulci (teachers, Minas Gerais)
    4. Paulo Rocha (printers, Pará)
    5. Avelino Ganzer (peasants, Pará)
  3. Militants from clandestine political groups that were created after the 1964 coup:
    1. Hamilton Pereira (Ação Libertadora Nacional – ALN)
    2. Raul Pont (Partido Operário Comunista – POC);
  4. Women with strong religious backgrounds that in the late 1970´s became leaders of popular movements in Brazil´s most important metropolitan areas
    1. Irma Passoni (Catholic, São Paulo)
    2. Benedita da Silva (Evangelical, Rio de Janeir

While interviewees balance episodes of terror, humor, and the joy of struggle, their accounts also provide vital evidence of the critical self-awareness that has allowed the PT to change and grow across three tumultuous decades. A truly splendid effort, this book greatly enriches our understanding of Brazilian society and politics in the past half century.

ITALY

Women Migrants From East To West Gender, Mobility and Belonging in Contemporary Europe
Edited by Luisa Passerini, Dawn Lyon, Enrica Capussotti & Ioanna Laliotou

Women migrants from East to West documents the contemporary phenomenon of feminized migration through 80 oral histories of women from Hungary and Bulgaria, who have migrated to Italy and the Netherlands. Chapters analyze the themes of love, work, home, communication, and food in an exploration of what sorts of subjectivity come about through contemporary forms of mobility. In addition, through 30 interviews with 'native' women in the 'receiving' countries, the book analyses their representations of migrant women, and forms of intersubjectivity between European women of different cultural origins.

Luisa Passerini is Professor of Cultural History at the University of Torino and External Professor at the European University Institute, Florence. She is the author of Europe in Love, Love in Europe. Imagination and Politics Between the Wars (London and New York, 1999), and editor of Across the Atlantic: Cultural Exchanges between Europe and the United States (Bruxelles 2000), and Figures d’Europe. Images and Myths of Europe (Bruxelles 2003).

Dawn Lyon is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent, UK. She completed her Ph.D. in the sociology of careers at the European University Institute where she co-ordinated the Gender Studies Program in the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (2000-04). From 2004-06 she was Senior Research Officer on the 'Transformations of Work' research program at the University of Essex. Her research interests and publications focus on work and employment and gendered processes and identities at work, especially in comparative perspective.

Enrica Capussotti is Researcher at the Department of History, Siena University. She obtained her PhD at the European University Institute and was subsequently a Marie Curie Fellow at the Institute of Romance Studies (University of London). She is currently working on two projects, the first concerning internal migration in Italy in the 1950s, and the second focusing on contemporary European cinema and European belongings. She is the author of Gioventù perduta. Gli anni cinquanta dei giovani e del cinema in Italia (Firenze: Giunti, 2004).

Ioanna Laliotou is Assistant Professor in Contemporary History and Intercultural Relations at the Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Thessaly, Greece. Her research interests concern the history of contemporary migrations, the history of subjectivity, and cultural theory and criticism. She is author of Transatlantic Subjects: Acts of Migration and Culture of Transnationalism between Europe and America (Chicago University Press: Chicago, 2004).

FlyerPDF

SOUTH AFRICA 

Oral History in a Wounded Country: Interactive Interviewing in South Africa

On 30 September the last day of the heritage month in South Africa, a newly-published book for Oral History was launched in Pietermaritzburg’s Msunduzi Museum by University of KwaZulu-Natal Press and the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Archives. The book, Oral History in a Wounded Country:  Interactive Interviewing in South Africa, is edited jointly by Philippe Denis and Radikobo  Ntsimane of Sinomlando Research Centre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.  The book can be purchased on-line via Kalahari.net and on Amazon.com .

SPAIN

Female Voices behind the Siren of the Factory. Women Workers of EDESA,1941-1985
[Voces femeninas tras de la sirena de la fábrica].
Author: Arantza Ancizar

This book draws upon the testimonies of women factory workers to analyze the changing relationship between women and paid work outside the home during the second half of the twentieth century. The author addresses issues of continuity and change that left a mark on female identity during that period. This is achieved by bringing to the fore the experience of women who spent part or the full of their working lives at the Edesa factory in Basauri, a town within Bilbao's industrial zone in the Basque Country, Spain. The Edesa plant, founded in 1941, manufactures home appliances.

The body of the work is woven around the life stories of women workers and their account. While their testimonies are admittedly subjective and biased, they nevertheless are extraordinarily rich, revealing and representative of individual and collective experiences of women who were employed by large company during a period when identities related to work belonged to the world of men.

Arantza Ancizar Periáñez
arantza6@hotmail.com

Women and ETA: The Gender Politics of Radical Basque Nationalism
Author: Carrie Hamilton
Manchester University Press, 2007, 256+vii pp
ISBN 978-0-7190-7545-2 

Women and ETA is the first book-length study of women’s participation in one of Europe’s most active illegal armed organizations. It draws on a unique body of oral history interviews with women formerly involved in ETA and other radical Basque nationalist organizations. The book uses the interviews both for empirical evidence of changes in the pattern of women’s activism and as sources for the exploration of gendered political subjectivities. 

Focusing on ETA’s first two decades, from 1959 to 1982, Women and ETA has two aims. The first is to ‘gender’ the history of radical nationalism by looking at constructions and representations of masculinity and femininity, as well as evidence of levels and varieties of women’s and men’s political participation. The second is to examine women’s memories of their activism in relation to diverse political and personal identities. While the interviews corroborate comparative evidence of women’s relatively low participation in ETA violence, they challenge popular perceptions of women’s reasons for joining an armed organization (most notably the myth that women’s activism is motivated by their romantic love for a male militant) and the implicit message in the academic literature on ETA that gender is not an important category of analysis for the history of radical Basque nationalism. To the contrary, the oral narratives indicate that most aspects of the movement, including the definition of nationhood, the founding of ETA, the imprisonment of activists and initiatives for peace, have been shaped by gender politics.  

Inspired by developments in oral history since the 1980s, in particular the work of Ronald Grele, Daniel James, Luisa Passerini and Alessandro Portelli, as well as memory studies, gender theory and recent research on the emotions, Women and ETA shows how women construct their identities in relation to a series of institutions and spaces (the family, generations, motherhood, prison, cultural organizations, ETA’s ‘military front’ and the feminist movement) in different historical contexts. Reading women’s activist narratives alongside and against published histories and representations of ETA and its members (including radical nationalist documents and the Basque and Spanish press), the author explores the conflicts between ‘official’ or ‘popular’ proscriptions for gender identity and behavior and women’s own self-representations. In addition, she demonstrates how women themselves alternatively challenge or take on traditional definitions of ‘womanhood’ in the process of remembering an activist past.  

While some narrators identify strongly with the traditional role of nationalist motherhood, others refuse this role and challenge popular stereotypes that associate women with peace and men with violence. At the same time, interviews with women who have participated directly in political violence must be analyzed against popular representations of female ‘terrorists’ as more aggressive and blood-thirsty than men. To this end, the interviews are revealing of how individual identities simultaneously reflect and challenge hegemonic gender discourses. They do so not only through conscious statements of identity but also through fantasy and expressions of emotion in relation to particular memories.  

Interviews with former members of an illegal armed organization that espouses violence for political ends raise challenging questions about authenticity and ethics. Should we believe the stories of people who support or participate in such violence? What are the politics of ‘giving voice’ to their versions of history? With reference to recent debates about memory, trauma and testimony, the author argues that oral historians should recognize the individual and collective responsibility of those who have committed violence against others while taking seriously their reports of state-sponsored violence, including sexual torture. Such attentiveness requires a willingness on the part of the interviewer to express empathy with narrators while resisting the temptation to identify with their victimhood at the expense of other subject positions, including that of perpetrator. As such, the book argues that oral historians can intervene constructively in contemporary debates about ethics in relation to the study of history and memory. 

The Death Penalty in Spain
Author: Peter Oliver Olmo
ISBN: 978-84-9756-605-6

This book examines the long presence of the death penalty in Spanish history. The end of the Francoist regime's firing squads, the triumph of the long-standing cause of abolitionism coincided with Spain's transition to democracy.

The historical significance of the death penalty in Spain cannot be understood without considering the attributes of the military juridical framework that was used to quell social disorder and control political violence. Opponents to the death penalty gradually gained support from the nineteenth century until it was abolished in the Second Republic's Criminal Code. Shortly afterwards, the abolitionist dream was met head-on by the tragic reality of a hypertrophic and engorged death penalty, as a direct result of the repressive and punitive dynamics of the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Journals

CANADA

The Canadian Oral History Association’s journal Oral History Forum d’histoire orale is now online in its new electronic version (there is no longer a print copy). Please visit http://journal.canoha.ca. Articles can be viewed only by members. Annual memberships are CAD 20.00 for regular members, CAD 15.00 for students, and CAD 30.00 for
institutions. Please encourage your university or local library to subscribe to _Forum_.

Open Call For Papers: _Oral History Forum d'histoire orale_ is the online journal of the Canadian Oral History Association. It serves as a premier meeting place for scholars, archivists, librarians, community activists and others who use oral history in their explorations of the past and present. _Oral History Forum d'histoire orale_ invites the submission of scholarly articles, reviews, discussions, artwork, annontated transcripts, and other contributions in the field of oral history and oral tradition. We encourage the inclusion of image, audio, and video files in your contributions. Contributions are published as soon as they have passed the editorial process (double-blind peer review for academic articles, review by journal editors for all other contributions). Submit queries and contributions to forum@uwinnipeg.ca.

The Oral History Forum d’histoire orale is currently seeking contributions that engage with these issues as they relate to Oral History and the family, broadly defined. University researchers, community organizers, educators, oral historians, public historians, and others who are working in this field are invited to submit theoretical and methodological papers, as well as empirically-based essays, reviews (books, new media, exhibitions, films, theatrical productions), and discussions for this special edition of the journal. We strongly encourage contributors to think outside the traditional box of the printed academic journal and thus their submissions may also include photographs, artwork, annotated transcripts, audio and/or video clips, field notes and any other additional research materials that may enrich our understanding of Oral History and the family.

Through this open-access collection we hope to generate discussion on this important theme and provide a valuable resource for people interested in the study of oral history and the family, whether in the classroom or in their own research. Articles will be published as soon as they are ready, ensuring a quick turn around time for early submissions, and the collection will be launched in 2009.

Please send queries and submissions to:

Katrina Srigley & Stacey Zembrzycki
Guest Editors, _Oral History Forum d’histoire orale_
University of Winnipeg
515 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Canada R3B 2E9

Or by email: katrinas@nipissingu.ca and szembrzy@alcor.concordia.ca

ITALY

QUI - Appunti dal presente

Qui, appunti dal presente [roughly translated “Here - Current Notes”] is a journal published three times a year in Italy in two editions (Italian and English), and also on the Internet at www.quihere.eu. It was created to gather testimonies and reflections on the times we live in, in whatever form writing allows: notes, poetry, stories, letters, essays, diary entries, and so on.

Our experience, along with trends toward globalization and war and related tendencies of aggression or unconcern for the lives of individuals, have led us to transform it into a collective diary that welcomes voices from many parts of the world: a written diary that originates from one’s own “historical-political ‘I’” (the ‘I’ that confronts political, local or global events and issues) as well as from one’s “mass ‘I’” (that comes into prominence, for example, when taking a bus or train: the generic ‘I’ among the others), from one’s “role-determined ‘I’” (the ‘I’ related to one’s work, one’s activity), and also from one’s “private ‘I’” (the ‘I’ among friends, in family life, with its feelings, desires etc).

Its contributors include individuals for whom writing is a daily activity, as well as those for whom it is only an occasional pursuit. In a word, intellectuals and non-intellectuals. Our proposal is to ‘bear witness’ to the times we live in together, offering the reader the possibility of reliving a recent past that he himself has experienced personally.

Masssimo Parizzi massimoparizzi@tin.it 
Via Bastia 11, 20139 Milan, Italy, phone-fax 0039-02-57406574

 

SPAIN

History, Anthropology, and Oral Sources

40 HIDDEN

Homage to Historian Ronald Fraser
Ronald Fraser. Historian and Teacher. Mercedes Vilanova
An Example To Be Followed. Ronald Fraser’s Collection of Oral Witness Accounts of the Spanish Civil War. Lluís Ubeda Queralt
History and Local Tragedy in Andalusia Through the Work of Ronald Fraser. José Antonio G. Alcantud
Fraser, Memory and History. Ricardo García Cárcel
From Horror Stories to the Prominence of Remembrance: The 1936 Coup and the Long Shadow of Repression. Andrés Domínguez Almansa
Pioneer’s Evocations. Ronald Fraser

From Women
Edition of the selected letters of Florence Kelley. Kathryn Kish Sklar
The Identity of Modern Spain’s Women Writers (through the repertoir by Serrano and Sanz). Esperanza Bort and Mª José Morales

Observing the Other
The History of Physiognomy. Ethical and Anthropological Questions Raised by a Pseudoscience. Belén Altuna
The Other’s Image Seen through the Other. An Ethnographical Experience with Indigenous Chaco Communities and the Pictures of Their Ancestors. Alejandra Reyero and María Giordano
Racial and Gender Identities in Afrocuban Santería. Gabriela Castellanos Llanos

Agenda
Report of the 15th International Oral History Conference «Oral History – A Dialogue with our Times » (Guadalajara, Jalisco, México, 23-26 September 2008)

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