Oral History and Human Rights Documentation: Acts of Witness on the Journey to Justice
Oral History and Human Rights Documentation:
Acts of Witness on the Journey to Justice
This paper will explore the dynamic potential of oral history, and testimony, to provide a meaningful context through which extreme human suffering can be documented in its full complexity, and communicated in ways that illuminate the specific historical and cultural contexts in which it occurs. The author argues that this process of communication, and commemoration, through oral history and testimony complements the "overwhelming evidence" of documents, media accounts, and legal reports on human rights abuses that, ironically, can flatten individual accounts of suffering and lead to emotional and moral fatigue in society at large. The presentation will draw upon work in testimony and oral history that endeavors to preserve personal and cultural stories in the act of documenting genocide and catastrophe, in order to address what the philosopher Geoffrey Hartman has described as a crisis of "personal memory" in an era of mass media saturation.