Thursday, July 12, 2012

dear boston globe, please do your homework!

To the Editor:

As a practicing oral historian, I am writing to express my concern at Ms. Kayyem’s characterization of the Belfast Project (“BC casethrows cold water on IRA, academia,” 7/12/2012) as “inconsistent with … oral-history standards.” Best practices in the field demand that all interviewees be fully informed, and sign a use agreement, prior to the oral history interview. The Oral History Association’s Principles and Standards  state that “interviews should remain confidential until interviewees have given permission for their use,” that interviewees have the right to seal portions of their interviews, and that sponsoring institutions and archives have the responsibility to honor the agreements made and documented between interviewer and interviewee.

While it is possible to make a legal argument both for and against respecting the confidentiality agreements the Belfast Project interviewers made with those whom they interviewed, those agreements were not “inconsistent” with oral historical best practices. Rather, they followed the guidelines set out by professionals in the field.


Anna J. Cook, M.A., M.L.S.
Allston, Mass.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

review of "hillbilly nationalists"

I have a book review of  Amy Sonnie and James Tracy's Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times (Melville House, 2011) in the Spring 2012 issue of the newsletter of the New England Historical Society (NEHA). Sonnie and Tracy explore, through oral history and archival research, the history of working-class white activism, primarily in the Chicago area, during the 60s and 70s, with an emphasis on the alliances between poorer whites and non-whites to work for social change.
The co-authors of Hillbilly Nationalists have taken on the ambitious project of researching and describing the under-documented efforts of white, working-class community organizers in the urban North during the 1960s and 70s. Sonnie is an educator, librarian, and author who co-founded the Center for Media Justice; Tracy is a social justice organizer in the San Francisco Bay area who focuses on issues of poverty, racism, and the environment. Drawing on extensive archival research and over sixty oral history interviews, these two practiced scholars map out the short-term politics and long-term effects of inter-racial community organizing in the era of Black Power.
Read the rest in the PDF newsletter, which you can download from the NEHA website.

Friday, February 3, 2012

quick hit: christian college presidents + human sexuality

Libby Nelson @ Inside Higher Ed reports on a recent meeting of Christian college presidents on the subject of non-normative sexuality (specifically homosexuality) and the Bible:
Part of the goal of the session was to allow college presidents to discuss how to handle [incidents of bullying and harassment] and other situations, which are happening with increasing frequency on college campuses as more students come out as gay as undergraduates and as other groups, including many representing alumni, ask the colleges to change.

“It’s important to us as leaders of Christian colleges and universities to promote sexual purity, to exercise good pastoral care and to articulate Biblical convictions,” said Philip Ryken, the panel’s moderator and president of Wheaton College in Illinois. At Wheaton, gay alumni and their supporters founded a group, OneWheaton, that counters the college’s view on sexuality, and held an unofficial homecoming event.

All three presidents [from Messiah, Wheaton, and Westmont] pointed out that they do not discipline students for same-sex attraction, and that the restrictions on sexual behavior are roughly analogous to those on heterosexual students: all prohibit sexual contact outside marriage. Gay students and alumni argue that a ban on premarital sex is not the same as a ban on homosexual “behavior,” since they would not be able to hold hands with a partner of the same sex, while straight students would.
I'm headed back to Hope College at the beginning of March to speak at a Women's Studies symposium, and I'll be very interested to hear and see first-hand what the climate for queer students and faculty is like now. It's been seven years since I graduated now (!) and with the current president now in his final year of service, I get the sense things are ripe for change -- though in what direction it's hard, as yet, to gauge.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

quick hit: alissa m. goudswaard in perspectives

My aunt just sent me the latest issue of Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought (December 2011) with a note to check out Alissa M. Goudswaard's essay "Everything That Rises," which reflects on aspects of her experience at the Oregon Extension in her junior year of college.
My first taste of bread handmade from yeast starter came the evening after the first day of class. I was reading about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with my cabin-mates when there was a knock on our door. It was John, one of our professors, a white-haired man who tied fishing flies as he talked to us about Derrida. He brought Cosette, the canine darling of the campus, and a towel-covered platter ... "I've come to feed you," John said (8).
Like so many of the personal reflections on the Oregon Extension I've listened to, and read, Alissa's account includes struggles to convey the inner revelations experienced while at Lincoln, and also some measure of insecurity as she worries that her own revelations -- her own personal journey -- somehow fail to measure up to those of her cohort:
Sarah came back to the cabin in tears one evening. She'd mailed her father a paper she wrote about Thich Nhat Hanh and Buddhist philosophy. She was excited about it, but her father was not. "I feel like I'm losing you," he had told her. "I feel like you're losing your hold on Jesus." "But I'm not!" she told us tearfully ... I celebrated with them, and waited for my own revelation. I waited for my dreams and visions, but nothing worked for me. I became increasingly restless (10).
In such an intense environment, it seems difficult for even the best-intentioned faculty and students to keep the momentum of majority culture from rolling forward, and sweeping everyone along into a group conversation that, inevitably, leaves some to feel they've missed the boat -- failed, in some way, to experience the revelation. I wouldn't go so far as to say such a dynamic is inevitable, but it does seem a difficult one to counter.