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seminar: Dr Eureka Henrich (Hertfordshire) 'Relistening: Finding health memories in extant migrant oral histories'

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Location: R0.14 Ramphal building, University of Warwick

A joint event with the Global History and Culture Centre.

Presentation, refreshments, discussion. All are welcome.

This talk explores the potentials and pitfalls of ‘relistening’ – or the reuse of oral histories – reflecting on the methodological and ethical issues which arise together with the surprises in store for those who choose to listen again. It draws on the findings of an ongoing research project, ‘Healthy Citizens? Migrant Identity and Constructions of Health in Post-War Australia’, funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Mid-twentieth century Australia was sold to potential migrants as a land of sunshine and plenty, and images of young, healthy ‘New Australian’ migrants were key to the domestic acceptance of a radical post-war immigration scheme. A rich and recently revitalised historiography of post-war migration has explored the wide gap between image and reality, yet the topic of health tends to be limited to an analysis of government policy and practice or subsumed within broader narratives of migrant settlement. On the whole, as sociologist Jean Martin observed in 1978, health professionals continue to play ‘the greatest part in defining the health situation of migrants’.

Archived oral histories offer a way to redress this imbalance, and, in the Australian case, this generation is well-represented. Interviews recorded with post-war migrants during the ‘heyday’ of Australian multiculturalism (1970s-1990s) are an invaluable source for the social history of medicine and health. Memories of medical screening, childbirth, hospitalisation, childhood illness and work-related injuries provide precious and sometimes painful windows into the lives of individuals and families caught up in Australia’s post-war immigration programme. Rather than passive subjects of medical expertise and government policy, many migrants emerge in their own telling as active agents in the maintenance of their health and that of their loved ones.

Dr Eureka Henrich is a Research Fellow in Conflict, Memory and Legacy at the University of Hertfordshire and an Honorary Associate of the Menzies Australia Institute, King’s College London. She was previously Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Medical Humanities at the University of Leicester. Eureka’s work explores histories of migration, health, heritage and memory in Australian and transnational contexts. Her recent publications include ‘Mobility, Migration and Modern Memory’ in The Past in the Present: History, Memory and Public Life (Routledge, 2018) and History, Historians and the Immigration Debate: Going Back to Where We Came From (Palgrave, 2019), co-edited with Julian M. Simpson. Eureka originally hails from Sydney, where she was awarded a PhD in History from the University of New South Wales in 2012.

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