“You Can’t Just Create a Beautiful Space. It Also Has to Feel Safe to Be There.”

A Q&A with How We Go Home editor Sara Sinclair

Voice of Witness shares an inside look into one of the newest oral history projects from Voice of Witness: How We Go Home. Sara is an OHMA alum and is currently Project Coordinator for the Columbia Center for Oral History Research's Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project.

We’re excited to share an inside look into one of the newest oral history projects from Voice of Witness: How We Go Home.

How We Go Home will illuminate the experiences of Native peoples living on reservations in the U.S. and Canada. Narrators will describe the impacts of forced assimilation, displacement, and the human rights violations emerging from institutional problems within the reservation system, while revealing Native society’s incredible capacity for resistance, healing, and survival.

How We Go Home is one of six projects Voice of Witness is currently incubating through the VOW Story Fund, which provides oral history training, editorial guidance, and project funding to human rights storytellers in need of institutional support.

Muriel Miguel wins Guggenheim fellowship

CCOHR was very pleased to learn that Muriel Miguel, founding member and Artistic Director of Spiderwoman Theater and a 2013 Summer Institute instructor, received a John S. Guggenheim Fellowship. Sara Sinclair, a 2013 Summer Institute Fellow, Oral History Master of Arts alum, and current Project Coordinator for CCOHR's Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project, conducted a public interview with Muriel, which you can watch below. In this post, she reminiscences about Muriel as a storyteller.

I met Muriel Miguel in Toronto through Native Earth Performing Arts. I was an actor participating in a week long workshop of a new play that Muriel was directing. We met again in New York at the American Indian Community House almost ten years later. I had just moved to the city, wondered whether I might run into Muriel and there she was!

We got to chatting and I told that I was in the city studying oral history. She was interested in hearing more about my studies and in telling me about Spiderwoman Theater’s latest production, a play based on real Native American women’s experiences of violence.  Muriel thought there might be a way for us to work together and I was excited about that and just so happy to reconnect.

Muriel is a great storyteller. She is fun, dynamic, wise and just so fully and richly herself.  She certainly doesn’t need an interviewer to draw her out! I saw my role as more about providing the structure for her to best share her story with the Summer Institute Fellows.  I was proud to be able to facilitate our time together so that she could share her experience as an “Urban Indian” growing up in Brooklyn, New York, a narrative unfamiliar and maybe even unimagined by most.

I love Muriel, and I love that she is a part of my community in New York. We don’t speak often but somehow she always knows when to call and I’m always so moved by her love and humor when she does. I had a son in June and the night before I went into labor, Muriel called to ask how I was. She told me about how she walked her way through her own labor. Her stories give me strength.

Oct. 1: Doing Recent History: History that Talks (and Tweets!) Back

This event is sponsored by the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives.

Why is writing living history challenging?
What are the ethics of doing research on social media?
Do historians watch enough TV?!

Join Tenured Radical Claire Bond Potter, editor of Doing Recent History; historian and Politico columnist David Greenberg; and archivists Laura Hart & Nancy Kaiser, in this lively discussion.

more info


Thursday, October 1, 2015
Butler Library, Room 523 - 535 West 114th Street

This event is free and open to the public.

Sept. 8-12: Women Mobilizing Memory: Collaboration and Co-Resistance

This conference, hosted by the Center for the Study of Social Difference, is co-sponsored by the Columbia Center for Oral History Research.

Women Mobilizing Memory

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 (All day) to Saturday, September 12, 2015 (All day)

Please join us:

On September 8, from 5 to 7 p.m., a reception marks the opening of "Collaborative Archives: Connective Histories," an exhibit at Leroy Neiman Gallery on the Columbia campus featuring an international group of women artists. This will be followed from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. by a conversation with the artists moderated by Carol Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts. The digital catalogue for this exhibit is available here and the exhibit poster here.

On September 10, from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. in Buell Hall on the Columbia campus there will be a conference consisting of three public roundtables featuring a distinguished group of international scholars and artists. One roundtable will address protest actions and their efficacy, ranging from the "Saturday Mothers" to "Black Lives Matter;" a second will discuss strategies for mobilizing political action around memory sites in Santiago, Istanbul, and New York; and a third will explore how lives touched by political violence and social death can be reanimated through writing and art. The full conference program for the day's events is available here and the conference poster here.


Women Mobilizing Memory,” a three-year working group of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference, explores the politics of memory in the aftermath of the atrocities of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in comparative global perspective with unique attention to the effects of social difference. Focusing on the shaping role of gender in the structures of political violence, the working group analyzes the strategies by which women artists, scholars and activists have succeeded in mobilizing the memory of gender-based violence to promote redress, social justice, and a democratic future.  Looking at gendered memory politics in several sites around the world, the group has analyzed these in a broader connective context. From the fortieth anniversary of the Chilean coup, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and cycles of violence against indigenous and minority peoples in Chile, Turkey and the United States, it has featured activist and future-oriented modes of representation and commemoration.  At the same time, it probes the limits of comparative and connective approaches to memory politics.  Based in the Humanities and the Arts, the group looks closely at the political efficacy of various media of memory, ranging from visual art, literature, journalism and performance to museums, memorials, and street actions. What role do these various media play in combatting the erasure of past violence from current memory and in creating new visions and new histories for future generations? The collaborations among the participants in the working group, their face-to-face as well as virtual meetings and their constructive conversations and disagreements, aim to create a space of solidarity and co-resistance that can lay the groundwork for a more hopeful future.

The “Women Mobilizing Memory” working group consists of scholars and graduate students representing fields ranging from history, anthropology, and sociology to literature, performance and visual arts, as well as artists, writers, curators and journalists from the United States, Chile and Turkey.  The group met in Santiago, Chile in 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey in 2014 and it will meet in New York in September 2015, bringing its questions to bear on memory politics, gender and social difference in the contemporary United States. 

The group will meet at Columbia and New York University September 8 - 12 to discuss work in progress; it will visit  memory sites in Harlem and lower Manhattan; and it will sponsor a number of public events:

 •An exhibition at Leroy Neiman Gallery on “Collaborative Archives: Connective Histories,” from September 7 - 18 featuring visual artwork and oral histories by New York artists Susan Meiselas, Lorie Novak, Simone Leigh, and Kameelah Janan Rasheed; Berlin-based Armenian artist Silvina der Meguerditchian; Santiago-based artist Paz Errazuriz; and Istanbul artists Aylin Tekiner and the Truth Justice Memory Center.  The exhibit will partner with community arts organizations in Harlem. 

•Exhibition opening reception September 8, 5-7 p.m., followed by an artists’ roundtable discussion moderated by Carol Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts, from 7:30-9 p.m. in East Gallery Buell Hall.

A second part of the exhibition, “CHILE: 40 Years of Struggle and Resistance,” will be on view at the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics, NYU, 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, from September 11- October 23. Opening Reception, September 11, 7 p.m.

•A one-day public conference on September 10, 9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m., featuring roundtable discussions on “Performances of Protest and Activism,” “Mobilizing Memory Sites: Istanbul, Santiago, New York,” and “Intimate Archives/Political Violence.” Speakers will include, Meltem Ahiska, Ayse Gul Altinay, Tina Campt, Hazel Carby, Maria José Contreras, Milena Grass, Andreas Huyssen, Kellie Jones, Nancy Kricorian, Alisa Solomon, Leo Spitzer, Marita Sturken, Diana Taylor, Carla Shedd, and Deborah Willis. 

•A campus and community-wide Wishing Tree commemorative event on September 8 and 10, 6-7 p.m., memorializing and honoring the victims of violent histories. 

Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Oral History Launch

CCOHR is pleased to announce the launch of the Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project, developed in partnership with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Three oral histories are available on the Rauschenberg Foundation website, each of which includes a transcript, documentary photographs, and a video clip. During the summer of 2015, more interviews will gradually be published on the Foundation's website. If an interview was filmed, complete footage of the published oral history are available at the Foundation Archives.

To learn more, please visit the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation website.