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CCOHR 2019 Summer Institute | From the Margins to the Center: Narrating the Politics of our Times

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June 17, 2019 to June 28, 2019

What do oral historians, journalists and scholars of contemporary history do when the President of the United States, supported by numerous members of congress, tells blatant lies and strives to undermine our access to traditionally reliable sources of information and democratic processes?  What do oral historians, journalists and scholars of contemporary history do when scientific knowledge is dismissed as mere opinion? What do oral historians, journalists and scholars of contemporary history do when false information is knowingly transmitted with the precise aim of enhancing distrust?

The 2019 Summer Institute in Oral History will focus on the challenges we face in documenting the political present when secrecy and distortions of truth threaten the most vulnerable in open societies.  What role does public memory and the search for meaning  play in rescuing and preserving the stories that we most need to hear?  Specifically, we will explore what journalists, oral historians, advocates and scholars of the present can learn from each other, as we sharpen our skills and awareness of how to document the stories that we most need to record and disseminate. 

The overarching goal of the 2019 Institute will focus on the role of oral history in opening up multiple accounts of truth and the search for meaning that otherwise may remain marginal – moving them to the center of our political discourse.

This summer’s institute is co-sponsored by the Columbia Journalism School and The American Assembly. For inquiries, please contact Julius Wilson (Program and Communications CoordInator, INCITE). You can also contact Institute Co-Directors Mary Marshall Clark and Terrell Frazier.


Doug Boyd, a leading oral historian and digital expert will speak to the promise and risks of the digital age: including protection in a time of enhanced surveillance.

Mary Marshall Clark,  director of the Columbia Center for Oral History Research, who has directed several projects on contemporary political history, including the Guantanamo: Rule of Law Project.

Sheila Coronel, Academic Dean of the Columbia Journalism School and past Director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, who began her career reporting in the Philippines for the underground opposition press.

June Cross, a documentarian at Columbia Journalism School whose work highlights the stories of the dispossessed and the importance of community dialogues.

Terrell Frazier, whose work directly addresses the intersection of sociology, oral history and political organizing.

Ronald Grele, director emeritus, Columbia Center for Oral History Research.

Alessandro Portelli, whose pioneering oral history work and writing has demonstrated the intersections between memory, history and literature in searching for multiple, diverse memories.

Linda Shopes, whose history as an editor and publisher has often focused on unheard stories.

Gabriel Solis, Executive Director of the Texas After Violence Project dedicated to telling stories about violence, mass incarceration, and the death penalty as an urgent health issue;

Amy Starecheski, Director of the Oral History Master of Arts program at Columbia, and an activist urban oral historian who focuses on low-income communities.