What More is Happening in the Interview: The Potential of Oral History in the Peaceful Resolution of Conflict


John Nicholas Brown Center 357 Benefit Street

A Public Humanities Professional Workshop, with Jill Strauss, Educator and Independent Facilitator

The concept of oral history as human rights based is well established. Likewise, it is well documented that telling one's story can be cathartic and even transformative for the narrator. However, the benefits of deep listening for the listener are less discussed in oral history literature. From peace and conflict theory and practice we know that active listening engenders empathy, trust and humanizes 'the other' at the same time as being heard makes the speaker feel validated and therefore more willing to listen to other perspectives. This workshop will consider the intersections of oral history interviewing and conflict resolution skills building in a case study of my doctoral fieldwork integrating oral history, conflict resolution and visual art in post-violent-conflict Northern Ireland. Following this, workshop participants will then try out the listening and paraphrasing skills activities through storytelling exercises that have been adapted from conflict resolution trainings. What best practices of each methodology support the other and how can we extend this learning from our professional to our personal lives and vice versa?

About the Facilitator: Jill Strauss completed her PhD from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland in December 2010. Prior to this, she earned a Master of Education in Peace Education and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University Teachers College. She has worked as an educator and facilitator on interreligious / interethnic relations, human rights and non-violence for many years and this past summer she trained youth interns to do oral history interviewing at the Museum for African Art in New York City. Currently, Jill is teaching 'Sociology of Conflict' (in which students do oral histories) and 'Making Peace: Putting Theory into Practice' at the City University of New York John Jay College of Criminal Justice.