Veteran's Oral History Projects: Nuanced Methodological and Pedagogical Approaches to Recovering Our Nation's Past

Valerie A. Martinez, Our Lady of the Lake University

Kirsten E. Gardner, University of Texas San Antonio

Christine Margaret Lamberson, Angelo State University

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, University of Texas at Austin

Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, Massachusetts Historical Society

A U.S. Soldier sits in front of a door

Photo by Jessica Radanavong on Unsplash

This session will take place at the 2020 OAH Annual Meeting | Conference on American History in Washington, D.C. Read the full abstract and speaker information here.

The “Veteran’s Oral History Projects” roundtable will discuss new methodological and pedagogical approaches to recovering our nation’s wartime past through the use of oral narrative. Practitioners of oral history have long used this methodological tradition to rectify the historical erasure of vulnerable and excluded communities from our nation’s memory. In addition, current projects are able to take advantage of this unique time in contemporary society whereby as of 2019, six years after the un/official end of the Global War on Terror, women are eligible for all roles within the U.S military including combat. We now have the ability to carefully examine the experiences of war upon returning soldiers, their families, and their larger communities, and how this in turn has changed over time. Our roundtable hopes attendees will leave our session equipped with multiple methodological approaches to oral history including the collection, preservation, and dissemination of historical knowledge through the use of “History Harvests” and the creations of Oral History Institutes. In addition, we hope attendees will leave with the knowledge of how instructors can create student-centered oral history projects that train students in professional oral history, while also advancing experiential student learning that includes a curriculum based in research methodology that fosters interview skills and requires scholarly analysis. The roundtable will conclude with a discussion of how the histories of women’s and ethnic minorities’ contributions to the military since World War II need to be captured, recorded, analyzed, and shared. These stories offer a lens for understanding the impact of gender and racial integration, combat integration, shared governance, and perhaps most importantly, a historical context for better evaluation of the contemporary issues of gender and racial integration and the U.S. military. We believe these areas can greatly be expanded upon from practitioners using our oral histories or collecting their own. As practitioners and students of oral history continue their work, new and newly revised areas are developing. Transnational and international oral history collections are underway that capture our current global refugee crisis. Oral history projects are increasingly documenting the strong LBGTQIA communities across the United States. Pedagogical articles also dominate discussions as we all try to create innovative ways of reconstructing our nations past for our students and with their participation. The future appears bright. Nevertheless, in our roundtable we also plan to discuss the limitations of oral history and how to protect vulnerable populations including refugees, victims of sexual assault and/or harassment in an increasingly open, albeit hostile, environment.

Posted: March 5, 2020
Tagged: Conference, Previews, Women's History