The International Oral History Workshop “Hidden Stories of 21st Century Latin America and the Caribbean” took place at Warwick on Wednesday 21 February 2018. The day was a celebration of the launch of the Special Issue on ‘Cuba’ recently published in Oral History.
After an introduction to the day by my Warwick colleague Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla we had a morning session of papers on Cuba by Stephanie herself, Kepa Artaraz (University of Brighton), Elizabeth Dore (University of Southampton), and Daliany Kersh (Regent’s University of London). Kepa spoke about the role of the intellectual in 1960s Cuba, using oral history interviews with protagonists of the revolutionary period in a paper entitled ‘Constructing identities in a contested setting: Cuba’s intellectual elite during and after the revolution’. Stephanie reflected on her oral history interviews with Cuban medical professionals, and she examined the impact of Cuban medical internationalism on identity construction. Based on life history narratives recorded in Cuba from 2004 to 2016, Elizabeth Dore explored the different ways Cubans experienced the loss of equality and the growth in inequality that has occurred in Cuban society over the past twenty-five years and the ways their memories about egalitarianism have changed. Daliany talked about gender roles and the division of labour in the private sphere during the Cuban Special Period, 1990-2005. Based on oral history narratives with Cuban women, she discussed how gender roles and the division of labour in the private sphere were affected during the period, arguing that despite current perceptions of a lack of change, there were in fact subtle shifts to gender roles and the traditional division of labour.
In the afternoon, the focus broadened out to include the wider region with papers from Jasmine Gideon (Birbeck, University of London), Ricardo Leizaola (Goldsmiths, University of London), Karen Tucker (University of Bristol) who joined us via Skype. Karen talked about her work 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 programme in Peru in the late 1990s. Jasmine discussed her oral histories Chilean exiles living in the UK, focusing on their coping strategies and how these are shaped by gender. Ricardo reflected on his involvement documenting oral history, ethnographic and ethnobiological knowledge in El Pedregal, an urban working-class community in Caracas. His account focused on his long-term collaboration with four generations of the same family.
Finally, the day finished with an amazing photo exhibition by Olga Lidia Saavedra Montes de Oca (aka Olisam), (University of Sussex) entitled ‘The Family as a space for gender transition’. By reflecting on contemporary images of transgender individuals in relation to their family, in her work Olga seeks to query the focus on gender transition as a contemporary, individual process, and re-locate it in personal and family histories.
The workshop was an extremely interesting day which led to academic researchers using oral history in Latin America and the Caribbean and beyond coming together in discussion and collaboration.
Angela Davis (University of Warwick)