Michigan Oral History Association Flipped Conference
The Michigan Oral History Association (MOHA) held a Flipped Conference (and Workshop) from October 9-16, 2021. The University of Michigan-Dearborn Digital Initiatives Program in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters hosted this virtual event.
Below you will find the presentations and recorded live Q&A and workshop sessions. (Eventually, this content will be hosted on a MOHA site.) Or you can click on the presentation title below and go to that presentation's page:
- Presentation I: Bilingualisms, Regimes of Im/mobility, and Identity in the Oral Histories of Iranian Americans in Michigan
- Presentation II: The Settlement and Integration of Latinos in Michigan
- Presentation III: Support Your Scene: Socioeconomic Context and Competing Authenticities in Detroit Rock from Early Punk to the Garage Revival
- Presentation IV: Romani Voices Defy Stereotyping
- Roundtable Discussion: The Michigan PBB Oral History Project: Four Perspectives on the Benefits (and Challenges) of Collaborating to Make History from Memories
- Brown Bag Presentation: The Importance of Using Indigenous Methodologies with Oral History Projects
- MOHA 2021 Conference Opening
- MOHA 2021 Lightening Round
Not a MOHA member? Annual student memberships are $15, individual memberships are $25, and institutional memberships are $50. Join at the following link: https://michiganoha.org/resources/membership/.
Also, MOHA’s Flipped Conference was a “satellite event” in conjunction with the 2021 Oral History Association Annual Meeting. Several members of the MOHA Board participated in an OHA Roundtable entitled, “‘Flipping’ Oral History in Michigan,” on October 12.
For more information, please contact Prof. Cam Amin.
Presentation I: Bilingualisms, Regimes of Im/mobility, and Identity in the Oral Histories of Iranian Americans in Michigan
Abstract: A noticeable feature of some interviews of Iranian Americans for the Michigan Iranian American Oral History Project is that the conversation can shift not just between Persian and English, but between versions of both languages. These shifts often conjure a cultural space that is neither Iranian, nor American nor statically “liminal.” Rather, it seems to signal an assertion of agency to travel freely between these identities and the imagined and real boundaries that separate them.
Camron Amin earned his Ph.D in Near Eastern Language and Civilizations in 1996 from the University of Chicago. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan-Dearborn where he is now a professor of History and serves as the Coordinator of the Middle Studies Certificate Program and is developing two digital oral history collections, the Michigan Iranian American Oral History Project and the Modern Middle East Travelers Oral History Project.
Presentation II: The Settlement and Integration of Latinos in Michigan
Abstract: This session focuses on the experiences of Latinos settling down in Michigan and on how they integrated into their larger communities. The papers in the panel examine the lives of Latinos who left the migrant stream to stay in Michigan and those who promoted and maintained their culture through music. Through interviews with Latinos 50 years and older we provide a comprehensive view on their reasons for settling in Michigan. These oral history interviews provide the reasons some of Latinos settled in Michigan and shed light on the processes of community integration and what these experiences were like for them and other Latinos at the time. This session also examines the role of Latino music in promoting community integration in Michigan. Music was a tool for creating cultural spaces that facilitated a sense of community among new residents. It not only brought people together at dance halls and community events, it promoted a sense of belonging among them. In sum, this session examines the settlement of the Latino population in Michigan and the processes that facilitated their integration into their new communities of residence.
Dr. Rubén O. Martinez is professor of sociology and director of the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University. His research interests include neoliberalism and Latinos, diversity leadership in higher education, institutional and societal change, education and ethno-racial minorities, youth development, Latino labor and entrepreneurship, and environmental justice. Dr. Martinez is the editor of the Latinos in the United States book series with the Michigan State University Press. He has numerous publications, including three co-authored books: Chicanos in Higher Education (1993), Diversity Leadership in Higher Education (2007), and A Brief History of Cristo Rey Church in Lansing, MI (2012); one edited volume, Latinos in the Midwest (2011); and two co-edited volumes: Latino College Presidents: In Their Own Words (2013), and Occupational Health Disparities among Racial and Ethnic Minorities: Formulating Research Needs and Directions (2017).
Dr. Richard Cruz Davila joined JSRI as a researcher in August of 2017. He recently completed a PhD in Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. His dissertation traces the history of Chicana/os and Latina/os in punk scenes in Los Angeles and Chicago. He is currently researching the evolution of Texas-Mexican music in Michigan. He is a member of JSRI’s Black/Brown Dialogues task force, which seeks to achieve a more equitable and inclusive Michigan through sustainable intergroup collaborative relationships.
Yoshira D. Macías Mejía is a postdoctoral scholar with the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University. Yoshira received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of New Mexico in 2019. Her research areas revolve around Latino politics and public policy. Specifically, her research explores how ethnic identity is shaped among younger generations of Latinos and how this impacts their political participation. She also studies how new information platforms (digital media and social media) are shaping political engagement among Latinos and other racial and ethnic groups. Other research interests include social, family, health, and immigration policy areas affecting Latino communities.
Presentation III: Support Your Scene: Socioeconomic Context and Competing Authenticities in Detroit Rock from Early Punk to the Garage Revival
Abstract: My research focuses on the underground Detroit rock scenes beginning with the early punk scene of the late 1970s run out of a gay bar and former disco club called Bookies on 6 mile just west of Woodward Avenue, followed by the hardcore punk scene in the 1980s made up mostly of teenagers from the surrounding suburbs of Metro Detroit, based out of run-down storefronts, bars, and clubs in Cass Corridor. This small angst fueled group founded Touch and Go Records, an influential indie-rock label of the 1990s, and were instrumental in inspiring the garage rock scene of the 1990s and early 2000s, which birthed the White Stripes. Using oral history, fanzines, and documentaries I explore how musicians and fans were driven by a politics of authenticity to create alternative culture producing systems, and how their music and organizing was influenced by the changing social and economic context of Southeastern Michigan.
Benjamin Thomason’s background is in history (BA and MA) with a focus on cultural studies. He is interested in how punk communities both resist and reflect the social, economic, and cultural contexts they developed in, and how they adapted over time. Punk communities provide a good lens to understand wider youth culture and changes in American socioeconomic life. He is also recently researching contemporary imperialist interventions and Hybrid Warfare in Global South nations, and how popular culture and media is mobilized and weaponized for these covert and overt operations. He has focused specifically on Syria in the past decade, connecting it with US history of supporting fundamentalist and sectarian Islam against secular nationalist and socialist governments. He is planning on connecting Middle East and Latin American operations for his dissertation, with special focus on how pop music, rock, and hip-hop is weaponized for operations in places like Cuba and Venezuela.
Presentation IV: Romani Voices Defy Stereotyping
Abstract: To help dispel prejudice and racial profiling in the United States, I will share stories from Hungarian Slovak Romanies in Michigan in the greater social/historical context. As an ‘under-represented’ marginalized community, Romanies have been silenced, censored and/or disrespected in communities throughout the world and specifically Michigan. Once we establish trust with the ‘other,’ he/she is no longer a member of a group but is a human just like each of us with a unique personality, social identity and history. Romanies who shared their own stories, not filtered through other voices, provide a different narrative and defy stereotypes from newspapers, police reports and laws dating back to the nineteenth century. The Hungarian Slovak Romanies, whose ancestors immigrated to the United States in the late 19th and up to the mid-20th century, have a long history as musicians who performed their traditional music and then jazz to adapt to the changing demands.
Martha Bloomfield is an award-winning author, oral historian and artist, who has written several books about immigrants, migrants and other marginalized peoples to help dissipate prejudice based on oral histories. Internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker Jacky Comforty wrote The Stolen Narrative of the Bulgarian News and the Holocaust with Martha Bloomfield published by Rowman and Littlefield in their series Lexington Studies in Jewish Literature (2021). Martha’s first book, The Sweetness of Freedom, Stories of Immigrants (co-author, Steve Ostrander) (Michigan State University Press (MSU), 2010) based on oral histories won a national IPPY Award (an Independent Publisher Book Award, Silver Medal for Multicultural Adult Non-Fiction) and a Michigan Notable Book Award, 2011. Her other books also published by MSU Press based on oral histories include My Eyes Feel They Need to Cry, Stories from the Formerly Homeless (2013); Hmong Americans in Michigan, (2014); and Romanies in Michigan (2019). Her website is: marthabloomfield.com
Roundtable Discussion: The Michigan PBB Oral History Project: Four Perspectives on the Benefits (and Challenges) of Collaborating to Make History from Memories
Roundtable Abstract: In 1973 one of the largest episodes of food contamination in U.S. history began to unfold in Michigan. The Michigan Chemical Company (owned by Velsicol Chemical Corporation) in St. Louis, Michigan, accidentally shipped a fire retardant (polybrominated biphenyl or PBB) in place of a livestock-feed additive to state feed mills. Thereafter, PBB entered into the human food chain via contaminated farm products and exposed millions of Michiganders. The Michigan PBB Oral History Project* documents the history of the PBB mix-up through interviews with community members—farmers, chemical workers, Pine River residents, consumers, public officials, researchers, and activists. This roundtable presentation will explore the multifaceted and collaborative components of the Michigan PBB Oral History Project from the perspectives of an oral historian, archivist, graduate student assistant, and graduate researcher to highlight the opportunities and challenges of collaborating to document, preserve, and interpret community memories.
- “‘These stories, they stick with you’: The Michigan PBB Oral History Project”
- “Preserving PBB Community Stories: A Graduate Student Assistant’s Perspective of the Michigan PBB Oral History Project”
- “Contaminated Consumption: The Forgotten History of PBB in Michigan, 1973-2019”
- “PBB in the Archives: Challenges and Advantages in Building a Manuscript Collection to Support the Michigan PBB Oral History Project”
Brittany Fremion will introduce and share information about how community members and academic partners from multiple institutions collaborated to develop the Michigan PBB Oral History Project. The focus of her presentation is a discussion of CMU student engagement with and contributions to the project. From April 2018 to May 2019, six undergraduate and five graduate students from History, Cultural Resource Management, and Education Programs dedicated nearly 2,000 hours to conducting, transcribing, and auditing interviews, attending community events, and preserving donated personal papers as part of a federally-funded grant team. In doing so, these students learned about oral history theory, methods, and ethics. They also learned a great deal about the ways in which PBB contamination changed individual lives, communities, and environmental health research, and they thought deeply about why this history matters. As one student observed, “these stories, they stick with you.” Another student reflected, “history, to me, is no longer just about places and ideas…but something much more personal.” These students shared in the pain and sorrow expressed by many community members, as well as celebrated moments of joy and triumph. They have heard the voices of those who for a long time felt unheard. Most importantly, they have been good stewards of the past, which seems ever present, as the past is never in the past, especially when chemicals are involved.
Brittany Fremion is an Associate Professor of History at Central Michigan University where she teaches courses in environmental history and public history. She is the director of the Michigan PBB Oral History Project, a member of the Michigan PBB Registry Leadership Team, and secretary for the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force (St. Louis, Michigan). She is also a MOHA Board Member and chair of the Workshop Committee.
By assisting on oral history projects students gain and opportunity for professional growth in ways that could not adequately be replicated in a classroom setting. Candy DeForest explains how her experience as a Project Graduate Assistant working on the Michigan PBB Oral History Project has contributed to her professional development as a public historian. Taking on a position with this oral history project has allowed her the opportunity to diversify and deepen her professional skills and experiences in oral and public history outside of the classroom. Candy will discuss her roles in the project, including transcribing, editing, digitizing, public speaking, and assisting with events. She also will highlight the challenges she has faced in working with personal oral histories and documents, detailing what she learned from those experiences. Student assistant opportunities like these provide students with valuable insight and practical work experience, while contributing to the oral history field.
Candy Deforest has a Master of Arts in History from Central Michigan University. She is a former Graduate Assistant for the Michigan PBB Oral History Project, for which she transcribed and audited interviews, digitized companion manuscript collections, trained undergraduate research assistants, and assisted with public presentations and community events. She is also a founding volunteer for the Rockford Area Museum, working in collections management, social networking, and assisting with fundraising.
Nikki Brabaw, a graduate student, will present her work on a creative endeavor project inspired by her work with the Michigan PBB Oral History Project, which documents and interprets the consumer experience. Millions of Michigan consumers were negatively, and permanently, impacted by the largest food contamination event in the history of the United States in the fall of 1973. Workers at Michigan Chemical Company accidentally loaded a fire retardant, instead of a nutritive feed supplement for livestock, into a delivery truck destined for a Farm Bureau feed mill. After this mix-up occurred, it took nearly a year for the problem to be identified and brought to the attention of the public, but by then the chemical had already heavily contaminated the human food supply. It is estimated that nearly nine million people were exposed to PBB in the 1970s through direct exposure to the chemical, through food consumption, through breastfeeding, or in the womb. It is devastating that so many people unknowingly consumed food contaminated with this toxic chemical. The oral histories collected from this cohort provide a powerful glimpse into this historic event and their interpretation provides important insight into how to best handle a situation like this in the future.
Nicole Brabaw has a Master of Arts in Cultural Resource Management from Central Michigan University. She is a former Graduate Assistant for the Michigan PBB Oral History Project and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force (St. Louis, Michigan). Her master’s thesis explored Michigan resident consumers’ experiences and memories of the PBB mix-up, specifically those of nursing mothers.
Marian Matyn will provide an archival perspective on the challenges and advantages of collaborating to collect, process, identify, and make accessible PBB-related manuscript collections supporting this oral history project. Until this collaborative effort, almost none of the collections of Michigan farm families and community members affected by the PBB tragedy in the early 1970s were in archives, resulting in their story being largely forgotten and unavailable to researchers. Archival concerns include: personal privacy issues versus the desire of families to make their stories available for public research, and trust issues and fears their records will be destroyed in the future due to the prior, unanticipated destruction of records tracking the health of farm families. Physical and mental health issues of families, including minors, and bankruptcy cases are documented in the collections. Marian will discuss her research to resolve her professional, ethical concerns about accessibility and retention issues and her efforts to identify PBB-related news footage in the Channel 9 & 10 film collection. Project collaboration has many advantages for the archives, including new donors of collections, archival researchers, collaborators, archives stakeholders, and researchers, new collections, and increased community awareness of archives.
Marian Matyn is Archivist in the Clarke Historical Library, Associate Professor in the Libraries, and liaison to the History Department where she teaches HST 583 Archives Administration as an adjunct professor.
Brown Bag Presentation: The Importance of Using Indigenous Methodologies with Oral History Projects
Abstract: This presentation is a contribution to the MOHA “Brown Bag” session on 10/16 and will be a short overview of different Indigenous methodologies used in academia, and how they can be implemented in oral history projects.
Elizabeth Ann-Berton Reilly holds a master’s degree in education in Heritage Studies. While working on her master’s degree at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire, she focused on oral history projects and the history and culture of Northeast Woodlands Indigenous people. She is a PhD student at the University of New Mexico, in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies program. She recently moved to Michigan in 2020 to be close to the tribe I am working with. Her research interests include mixed-race Indigenous identities (specifically passing as White and being White-coded), including among non-federally recognized Indigenous communities and peoples. She is interested in studying family oral histories and the design of oral history projects with that focus.
MOHA 2021 Workshops
This early conference workshop features a welcome message from the President of MOHA and an introductory-level workshop to set a foundation for the field going into the conference, which will be useful for new practitioners and MOHA members.
MOHA 2021 Conference Opening
- Brittany Fremion (moderator), Associate Professor of History, Central Michigan University, MOHA Workshop Committee Chair
- Jim Cameron, MOHA President: “Welcome to MOHA”
- Camron Amin, MOHA conference co-organizer: Conference Welcome
- Dan Clark, Professor of History, Oakland University: “Introduction to Oral History”
MOHA 2021 Lightening Round
This mid-conference lightning round event features MOHA Board Members who will touch on more intermediate topics related to their experience with connections to emerging themes in the field and conference panels. Each presenter will have a few minutes to provide a tour of their topic, followed by discussion.
- Brittany Fremion (moderator), Associate Professor of History, Central Michigan University, Workshop Committee Chair
- Sherry Tuffin, Lawrence Technological University Library : “Active Listening”
- Kim Schroeder, Archival Program Coordinator and Lecturer, Wayne State University: “Oral History in Student Research”
- Camron Amin, Professor of History, University of Michigan: “(Mis)Managing a Real Oral History Project for an Online Course”
- Russ Magnaghi, Professor of History Emeritus and Research Associate, Northern Michigan University: “Ethnic Oral Histories”