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2018 International Oral History Workshop

The International Oral History Workshop "Hidden Stories of 21st Century Latin America and the Caribbean" will take place on Wednesday 21 February 2018 (PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF DATE).


The programme is as follows:

9.30-10.00: registration and coffee

10.00-10.30: introduction

10.30-12.30: first panel on Cuba

12.30-1.30: lunch

1-30-3.30: second panel on Latin America

3.30-4.00: coffee

4.00-5.00: Photo exhibition by Olga Saavedra and wine reception

Detailed programme:

Introduction and Launch of the Special Issue “Cuba”

Dr. Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla, University of Warwick

Morning Session

1. Constructing identities in a contested setting: Cuba's intellectual elite during and after the revolution.

Dr. Kepa Artaraz, University of Brighton

This paper explores the ways in which oral histories serve a process of constructing collective identities along the boundaries of what is politically possible. The paper emerges from a study of the role of the intellectual in 1960s Cuba, using oral history interviews with protagonists of the revolutionary period. It argues that the exploration of oral history material is a historically situated phenomenon that – in the case of highly politicised contexts – also needs to take into account the political limits of expression. Referring to the work of Bourdieu, the paper argues that a theoretically-framed reading of interview material may bring contextual meaning and provide ways of understanding how roles and identities change over time.

2. ‘The epicentre of the crisis’: gender roles and the division of labour in the private sphere during the Cuban Special Period, 1990-2005

Dr. Daliany Kersh, Regent’s University

Despite having assumed some responsibility for women’s domestic labour and achieved a certain degree of gender equality in the public sphere during the first three decades of the revolution, the Cuban government had been unable to alter the traditional division of labour in the private sphere. In their role as principal caregivers, women were disproportionately affected during the economic crisis known as the ‘Special Period’ (1990-2005). Extreme shortages and cuts to public services increased the domestic burden on Cuban women; this crisis can thus be described as a feminised one. By analyzing oral history narratives of thirty ordinary Cuban women alongside expert interviews and Cuban press sources, this paper discusses how gender roles and the division of labour in the private sphere were affected over this entire fifteen-year period.

Despite current perceptions of a lack of change, there were in fact subtle shifts to gender roles and the traditional division of labour during the crisis as some men were helping out more. There were also changes to family dynamics as more women were assuming the role as main breadwinner. Additionally, many women dropped out of their state professions to be closer to home or, for those who could afford to, paid other women to carry out the domestic and childcare services hitherto provided by the state. This privatization of domestic labour services marked a dramatic shift in women’s employment for the first time since the revolution.

3. The Closure of Sugar Mills, narrated by Cuban cane workers

Ana Vera Estrada, Instituto Cubano de Investigación Cultural Juan Marinelo, Havana

In 2002 the Cuban government closed half the existing sugar mills in Cuba. Closures occurred frequently in the history of the sugar industry and were mainly associated with technological changes. In this paper, fragments of oral history interviews reveal several moments in this latest closing process, known as ‘sugar restructuring’. In these interviews, former sugar workers refer among other issues to the impact that this event had on their personal and family lives. They also mention the scheme “Study as Employment”, which was created to encourage the re-qualification and relocation of most unemployed, among other issues. Findings exposed are based on two fieldwork studies carried out in the provinces of Matanzas and Artemisa between 2004 and 2015.

4. “We are not the same Cubans we were before.”

Prof. Elizabeth Dore, University of Southampton

Cuban society changed in the last twenty-five years. Inequalities of income and wealth increased, and the Communist Party deleted egalitarianism from its statement of principles. Life history narratives that I and my research colleagues recorded in Cuba from 2004 to 2016 dwell on the different ways Cubans experienced the loss of equality and the growth in inequality. Drawing on my forthcoming book, We are not the same Cubans we were before, this paper examines the ways memories about egalitarianism changed.

Afternoon session:

1. Forced sterilisation, participatory story-telling and digital counter-memory in Peru

Dr. Karen Tucker, University of Bristol

In Peru in the late 1990s, almost 280,000 women and 20,000 men were surgically sterilised as part of a government family planning programme. Many of these sterilisations were forced: people were lied to, pressurised, threatened and, in some cases, physically forced to undergo surgery, often in unhygienic conditions and with little attempt to provide suitable aftercare. The Peruvian state has never acknowledged the violation of rights that accompanied the family planning programme, nor established a mechanism to compensate those affected. Since 2013, I have been working on the Quipu project, a collaboration between two academics at the University of Bristol, transmedia documentary collective Chaka Studio and women’s organisations in the provinces of Piura, Cusco and Pucallpa. The project uses mobile phones to collect and share testimonies of those affected by forced sterilisation. The testimonies are also made accessible to a global audience via an interactive website (www.quipu-project.com). In this paper I reflect on the achievements and limits of the Quipu project, and its role as a catalyst for local activism in relation to forced sterilisation and a technology of social change.

2. Gender, health and well-being among Chilean exiles in the UK

Jasmine Gideon, Birbeck, University of London

My research has used oral histories to look at coping strategies among Chilean exiles living in the UK, with a particular focus on health and well-being. Drawing on the exiles’ narratives the paper examines how coping strategies are shaped by gender and ideas around masculinities and considers the implications of this for well-being in the context of exile. It also looks at the importance of ‘community’ as a coping mechanism and examines the ways in which ideas around community cohesion are presented within the narratives. Finally the paper considers some of the challenges and dilemmas faced in the process of conducting the interviews – for example tackling sensitive issues around torture and violence and the importance of gaining – and maintaining – the trust of research participants.

3. El Pedregal: visualizing shared memories. 25 years of audiovisual collaboration.

Dr Ricardo Leizaola, Anthropology Department, Goldsmiths

This paper presents an overview of my involvement documenting oral history, ethnographic and ethnobiological knowledge in El Pedregal, a urban working-class community in Caracas, with particular focus on my collaboration with local people involved in the documentation and political mobilization of their own history and memories using film, video, photography, audio recordings, transcripts, performance and mix techniques. It analyses the nature of their involvement in my projects as well as my involvement in their projects and our common projects.

Focusing on the relational character of oral history outputs, this multimedia presentation emphasizes on the understanding of recordings and transcripts of memories and interviews and related material culture, including videos and photographs, as the outcome of relationships and encounters. As such, they say as much about their subjects as they say about their makers and the context of the encounters.

By presenting a series of ethnographic vignettes related to my experiences conducting research in El Pedregal along, among and in competition with community members I would like to introduce and contextualize the products of my research and that of my local collaborators within the processes that generated them. This account focuses on my long-term collaboration with four generations of the same family, particularly with the Luis Enrique Reyes Blanco and our research interventions documenting oral history and promoting ‘orality’, ensuring the in-situ continuation and contestation of memory.

Photo Exhibition: The Family as a space for gender transition.

Olga Lidia Saavedra Montes de Oca (aka Olisam), University of Sussex

By reflecting on contemporary images of transgender individuals in relation to their family, the artist seeks to query a focus on gender transition as a contemporary, individual process, to re-locate it in personal and family histories. The exhibition will show color photographs, depicting the Cuban families whose stories are narrated in this collaborative research project. The work will also include video installations and it will serve as a space to glimpse and listen to different aspects of the participant families’ dynamics.

The artist focus is on those spaces where being a transgender person has been the principal factor in the fragmentation of the Cuban family. It is not primarily about being transgender or about sexuality, but about how the experience of gender transitioning affects everyone.


The workshop will run from 9.30am to 5pm in the Library: Wolfson Research Exchange Seminar Room 2. If you are not Warwick staff or student, please contact Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla at s.panichelli@warwick.ac.uk in advance to get a pass to enter the library.

Admission is free of charge. For any question related to the event, please contact Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla (Global Sustainable Development, s.panichelli@warwick.ac.uk)

updated OH workshop