Past Events

Oral History Conference, Guwahati | 13-14 Nov 2017

The Oral History Association of India is pleased to announce its third Oral History Conference on 13th and 14th November, 2017 in collaboration with the Department of History, Gauhati University.

“Public Memory and Oral History”

Venue: Gauhati University Campus, Guwahati, Assam, India 

The Oral History Association of India and the Department of History, Gauhati University hosted a National Conference on Public Memory and Oral History  at Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam (India) on November 13-14, 2017.

The theme of the conference addressed the growing interest in the study of the relationship between public memory and oral history. The ways in which individuals and societies choose to remember, or forget, moments and events in history through ‘sites’ of public memory such as memorials, museums, monuments, films and public speeches, is often highly contested. The narration of the past, the preservation and loss of collective memories is clearly a matter of ideology and power which has implications for contemporary issues such as ethnicity, class, gender and religion. Oral history as a subject and technique interprets how memory affects impressions of the past. If traditional history is produced by those in power, oral history by contrast can be seen as repository of knowledge for ‘people without history’. No memory is possible outside the frameworks used by people living in society to determine and retrieve their recollection. As a product of social change, public memory looks beyond the State to understand how individual perspectives in history build collective memory focusing on the broader cultural meanings of oral history narratives.

 Sub – themes:

  • Oral History and Cultural Heritage
  • Oral History, Museums and Archives
  • Oral History and Public Events
  • Public Memory and Verbal Arts
  • Media and Memory
  • Memory and Migration
  • Memory, Nation and Identity
  • Memory, Urban Spaces and Cultures
  • Natural Disaster and Public Narratives
  • Voices of Collective Remembering
  • Oral History and Environment


International Oral History Association Conference 2016

The International Oral History Association (IOHA) along with the Oral History Association of India(OHAI) organised the XIXth International Oral History Conference at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru, India from 27th June to 1st July 2016.

The theme of the conference was “Speaking, Listening, Interpreting: the critical engagements of Oral History” and the discussions at the conference were around the following themes:

  • Oral History’s relationship to Anthropology
  • Oral history, Memory and Literary Studies
  • Engaging with History
  • Women’s History and Oral history
  • Oral Narratives and Legal Studies
  • Oral History, Community Life and Critiques of Development
  • Oral Narratives of Caste and Communities
  • Traditions, Folklore and History
  • Oral History in the Archives
  • Oral History, Gender, Politics and Oral Narratives
  • Orality, Memory and History
  • Oral History of Science

SECOND Oral History Conference, Mumbai | 19-20 January 2015

Theme: “Oral history and the dialogue between history and memory”

Venue: Goethe Institut, Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai 

Memory has never been viewed as a reliable research tool. On the contrary memory remains fragile, often given to subjectivity and misrepresentation. But the strength of viewing memory “in conversation” with history is precisely the point where the art of representation gets disqualified as valuable research findings. The written form of representation is far more misleading than the spoken, for it can be wiped clean from both the memory and the official paperwork.

Oral narratives build up a space for a dialogue between the written history and the unwritten fragments of history present in the human memories. Such a dialogue often leads to bring forth an alternate narrative of the history.  Oral history as dialogue is asking for clarity of purpose, with the guarantee that misrepresentation can be rectified.

OHAI through this conference hoped to carry forward the notion of “dialogue” rather than the time-tested, and yet slightly jaded interview method of asking questions and waiting for standardised responses. The Conference hoped to problematise inter-subjectivity by using the dynamics of co-authoring a text that includes “dialogue” between mainstream/marginal as well as reactionary/radical. The idea was to highlight the multidimensional nature of recalling and retrieving memorable aspects of history, which ranges from the art of commemorating events to probing into what remains unsung and forgotten.


The Conference was visualised as a meeting ground for differences that are too slippery for easy reconciliation. There are multiple methods and variations of dialogue, such as interface, negotiations and hybridity. Orality as speech brings in the art of transforming the spoken into multiple forms of recording and transcribing. The political canvas wherein these exchanges takes place, are ridden with problems of interpretation. Speech is more often than not, surrounded by conflict of interest. Therefore, dialogue does not offer solutions to heated arguments. Nor does it claim to be the singular point of reference. If anything, dialogue keeps future negotiations intact, and amenable for revisiting an argument. The conference provided opportunity for both podium and panel presentations for introducing and discussing these multiple issues in the field of oral history – theoretical as well as technical.

Sub-themes for the conference:

  • Memory, oral traditions and historical reconstruction
  • Lest we forget: erasing / recalling memories of trauma
  • Re-reading history and re-telling stories
  • The commemorative aspects of OH
  • The dynamics of compensation, rehabilitation and retrieving memories
  • The body as the site of contestation and protest
  • The gendered nature of recall
  • Institutional history and the role their archives play
  • Oral History of urban spaces

The communities of memory

The inaugural OHAI Conference, Bangalore | 18th-19th November 2013

Bangalore, a city in the southern India and known for being the IT hub of the country, hosted the first Oral History Association of India Conference on Nov 18 and 19 2013. The conference was titled ‘Oral History in Our Times’ and it became an inaugural event for OHAI, which was founded as a professional organisation on May 14, 2013.  Presently, the organisation has 40 members, and has plans to expand its reach in terms of its academic, research and archival resources. It was encouraging to see the widespread participation of over fifty researchers and practitioners of oral history from across India.

The first president of the association, Dr Pramod Srivastava, professor and head of history department at Lucknow University, welcomed the delegates and gave the inaugural address, which traced the history of the association in India. The well-known oral historians, Alessandro Portelli from Italy and Miroslav Vanek from Czech Republic – who is the former President of the International Oral History Association, also participated in the conference.

The two day sessions were marked by individual paper presentations, plenary sessions, public lectures and musical performances on important issues relating to oral history. Theoretical analysis went hand in hand with case studies, which included video presentations made by OH practitioners. While shortage of time was felt in almost all the presentations, there was no lack of discussions through interactive sessions.

The first day’s session on “Gender and Oral History began” began with the presentation by Sarmistha Dutta Gupta from Kolkata on ‘Anecdotes and Gendered Histories of Politics’. The other presentations in this section came from Malathi Ramanathan, Mumbai, whose focus was ‘Relevance of Oral History to Research on Gender’; Saraubh Mishra from Lucknow who looked at the district court of Lucknow to bring out the experiences of women in the legal profession; and Jyothsna Latha Belliappa and Sanchia de Souza both from Bangalore whose paper was on Anglo-Indian women school teachers in India. The second session on ‘Archiving Oral History’ began with the presentation ‘Towards a large scale collection and automatic annotation of personal oral histories’ by Dr Soma Paul who had co-authored the paper with Kishore Prahllad and Deepa Elluru. Dr Lye Soo Choon, a member of the National Archives of Singapore also presented a paper on ‘Oral History in Archives’ Perspective’.

Dr Miroslav Vanek, K. Lalita, Dr. Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff, Dr. Suroopa Mukherjee and Dr. Pramod Srivastava shared their experiences and works at the plenary session on ‘Experiences, Remembrance and Politics: Oral History in our Time’. Among other things it discussed the challenges in the field of oral history. The Young Researchers Forum saw participation by researchers from various universities in India. This section brought into focus the different areas of research and use of genres that OH promises, given its distinctly interdisciplinary nature.

On day two of the conference, Dr Mallika Saxena, Junuka Deshpande and Dr Fleur D’Souza made presentations on the theme ‘Oral History and Community’. Dr Saxena’s presentation was on oral histories of the widows of armed forces in Lucknow, while Junuka Deshpande shared her experience about doing oral history work in post-Tsunami Nicobar Islands. Dr Fleur D’Souza’s paper explored the history and the identity of the Pawaras of Shirpur, a community in the state of Maharashtra, and their relationship with the forest.

This was followed by a session on ‘Oral History and Oral Traditions’. Akhil Gupta’s paper, authored by Dr Sangeeta Krishna, was titled ‘Constructing Oral History: A Study of Mandalis and Non Mandalis in the villages of Uttar Pradesh’. Dr Vinita Sinha and Aiyesha Abrar’s paper was about uncovering the subversive alternative history in Maithili stories and songs. The third paper in this section, Reconstructing History of Indian Dances through Oral Traditions, was presented by Dr Ashish Mohan Khokar.

The panel discussion on ‘Oral History Methodology – Interpreting what we listen to’ saw Deepa Dhanraj, Vrunda Pathare, Meena Menon and Dr. Indira Chowdhury speaking on the oral history practice in India.

The conference concluded with a special lecture by Alessandro Portelli on ‘They Say in Harlan County: Thirty Years of Field work’, where he shared his experiences of working as an oral historian from Italy researching on a community’s history in the state of Kentucky in the US. The conference was followed by the annual general body meeting of OHAI to which Dr. Miroslav Vanek was invited to participate. Dr Vanek shared his experience of organizing the IOHA Conference in Prague in 2010. Dr. Vanek’s words of encouragement together with the enthusiasm of OHAI members lead to OHAI’s decision to bid for India as the venue of the IOHA Conference in 2016.

Dr. Suroopa Mukherjee, Vice President, OHAI

Piyusha Chatterjee, Joint Secretary, OHAI


The inaugural events of the Oral History Association of India were held in July 2013




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