Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
plan2 masthead
Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2007

T C 357 • Oral History, Identity and Diversity

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43403 W
6:00 PM-9:00 PM
CRD 007B

Course Description

** Nota Bene: Because this course no longer contains a substantial writing component, the unique number will change. **

This course focuses on the collection and analysis of oral narratives as evidence of the recent past, situated somewhere on the continuum between memory and history, but placed in the immediacy of accelerated history. The class also focuses on ethnic and racial identity and how individuals narrate their identity. Students are trained in oral history interviewing techniques, transcription, and the evaluation of oral evidence. The class reads theoretical material about collective memory, the relationship between memory and history, the ethnographer's role in the creation of the past, transgenerational memory, trauma and memory, the construction of racialized identities, and the challenges and possibilities of interpreting oral narrative as accelerated history. Students read transcriptions, listen to audio interviews, view films, and examine web based oral histories as they evaluate how presentation impacts the creation of meaning. Each student will conduct a series of interviews with UT students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds about their racial and ethnic identity and their experiences at UT. After transcribing and excerpting meaningful passages, and identifying common themes among the interviews, the class will create exhibits and radio pieces highlighting their work.

About the Professor

Martha Norkunas holds a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University's Folklore Institute. She is the author of The Politics of Public Memory: Tourism, History and Ethnicity in Monterey, California (SUNY Press, 1993) and Monuments and Memory: History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002/ Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006). She has worked with museums, historic sites, and public humanities projects across the country on issues of memory, identity, gender, and the representation of minority voices. She is also an oral historian and has been involved in a number of oral history projects on industrial and labor history, immigration, racial identity, and gender.

Grading Policy

Written summaries of some assigned readings: 15%
Presentation of film or website based on oral history: 10%
Interview project (see details below): 45%
Editing of interview: 20%
Compilation project with class: 10%

Interview project:

Each student will identify four UT students from a racial or ethic group different from their own, conduct four intensive identity focused interviews, transcribe the recordings, tape edit the transcript, and produce an unedited transcript. Students will also tape edit their colleagues' transcripts, giving them an opportunity to listen to another interview, and to correct any transcription errors. Each student must take color or black and white images of narrators. It is critical for each student to obtain release forms for the oral history interviews, photographs and any other materials donated by the narrator. Each student will then lightly edit the transcripts for web publication. Students will identify major themes in the interviews and identify key passages that are most revealing of those themes.

Each student will write a paragraph abstract of their interviews, questions to be asked of the materials and sections of the transcript that answer those questions (for teachers), and a one paragraph biographical sketch of the narrator. Each student will also edit the audio materials to correspond with the key passages or create short video segments of videotaped interviews.

Students will work together to create a public program (such as a MySpace exhibit or podcast or radio program) based on their work. Students must send copies of the final transcripts and tapes to narrators, along with thank you notes. Note: All students will be trained to use audio equipment and editing software.


Students will read selected chapters from the readings.

Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders, 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice
Bal, Mieke, Crewe, Jonathan, Spitzer, Leo, Acts of Memory: Cultural Recall in the Present
Peter Bartis, Folklife and Fieldwork, A Layman's Introduction to Field Techniques
William Chafe, Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell about Life in the Segregated South
Michael Frisch, A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History
Gluck, Sherna, Berger, Patai, Daphne, Womens Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History
Martha Norkunas, Monuments and Memories
Alessandro Rosengarten and Nate Shaw, All Gods Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw
Art Spiegelman, Maus I, A Survivors Tale: My Father Bleeds History
Art Spiegelman, Maus II, A Survivors Tale: And Here My Troubles Began
Paul Richard Thompson, The Voice of the Past: Oral History


bottom border