"Memory makes us, we make memory. Imagine yourself without a memory."
Elizabeth Tonkin, Narrating Our Pasts

"For every story there is another story which stands before it."
Barbara Myerhoff, Number Our Days

"I have summoned up the courage to tell my personal story because I believe that Americans deserve to know the truth. When I hear of those who say that the internment never happened, and that only those who wanted to live in camp were given that protection, I know how vital it is that the truth be told."
Mary Tsukamoto, We the People

"I know you must have sense enough to know that you can't make me tell you anything I mean to keep to myself."
Hannah Nelson, in Drylongso

Welcome to Oral History and Community Memory. This is a project-based learning experience, sponsored by the Oral History and Community Memory Institute and Archive at CSUMB. This class is part of the Fort Ord Conversion Project and this semester the themes of land, memory and balance will anchor and guide our work.

The land our University inhabits is inscribed by many histories -- "for every story there is another story that comes before it." How can we know these stories? How many of them are buried beneath the layers of the earth? How many of them live above ground? How can we know what others would like us to forget? -- "Memory makes us." -- How can we be part of restoring balance as we, in turn, "make new memory?"

Your projects will take you into the communities of Monterey Bay - communities that are bounded by geographical borders, and also by visible lines of class, of race and ethnicity, of military, civilian, and occupational status; and by the not so visible lines of documented/ undocumented citizenship. Along with libraries, archives, and "official" stories, people in the community are also the keepers of memory, the tellers of stories for the next century.

Where do we come in? In this course you will become oral historians, generators, recorders and makers of memory. You will learn different disciplinary approaches to understanding world issues surrounding us. Your oral history research will integrate many sources of information and many perspectives, including your own. And you will become multi-media producers of memory "texts" for the future.

The oral histories and other documentation you gather, with proper consent, may become part of the CSUMB Oral History and Community Memory Archive. This Archive is an historical repository and, resource for our surrounding communities. Your interviews will also form the basis for a Web Page and multimedia historical presentations on CDRom!


  • Paul Thompson, The Voice of the Past, Oxford University Press
  • Sherna Gluck and Daphne Patai, Women's Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History, Routledge
  • Occasional articles and oral histories to be handed out in class

Videos to be seen in class:

  • Fires in the Mirror; Chicano, Part 2; Eyes on the Prize

Select Recommended Reading:
Critical Anthologies:

  • Alessandro Portelli, The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories
  • Ronald J. Grele, Envelopes of Sound
  • Gwen Etter-Lewis and Michele Foster, Unrelated Kin: Race and Gender in Women's Personal Narratives
  • Elizabeth Tonkin, Narrating our Past: The Social Construction of Oral History

Oral Histories:

  • Ruth Behar, Translated Woman
  • Anna Deveare Smith, Fires in the Mirror; and Twilight L.A.
  • Elizabeth Debray, I, Rigoberta Menchu
  • Studs Terkel, Work or Race
  • Daphne Patai, Brazilian Woman Speak
  • John Langston Gwaltney, Drylongso: A Self Portrait of Black America
  • Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth, Having Our Say. The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years
  • Mary Tsukamoto and Elizabeth Pinkerton, We The People: A Story of Internment in America
  • Elaine H. Kim and Eui-Young Yu, East to America: Korean American Life Stories
  • Marilyn P. Davis, Mexican Voices / American Dreams
  • Barbara Myerhoff, Number Our Days
  • Patricia Preciado Martin, Songs My Mother Sang to Me
  • S. Beth Atkin, Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farm workers Tell Their Stories
  • Mario Garcia, Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona
  • Shirlee Taylor Haizlip, The Sweeter the juice: A Family Memoir in Black and White

Over the course of the semester you will be responsible for:

  • Collecting and turning in 4-5 hours of oral testimony (on audio or video tape) from a minimum of 3 individuals. For projects which do not pursue in-depth life history, interviews may be more focused, shorter, and include more people. Tapes to be archived must be accompanied by interviewee information sheets and signed archival release forms. You are also responsible for making copies for your interviewees and yourselves. Original tapes will be archived.
  • Presenting a project proposal outlining the purpose of the project, the issues it deals with, the design of the research, the, people to be interviewed, the specific topics/areas for questioning, other sources of information to be used, and the form of final presentation.
  • Thematic logs of the interviews conducted and select transcription of a key portion of the most important interview.
  • A series of one-page summary sheets of assigned critical readings (there will be approximately 8 of these in the semester).
  • A draft of your final project.
  • The final project and portfolio that includes the syllabus, tapes, releases, all written and media work done in the course. Please include all assignment handouts given to you during the semester. Do not include copies of readings.
  • A final presentation to the class and, if we can organize it, to the public.

The weight of each assignment in the final grade will be collectively determined by the class, in discussion with the professor.
You may opt for a letter grade or a credit/no credit. Your option must be submitted in writing to the professor by the third week of classes. Grades do not insure fulfillment of Assessments. You could get a good grade in the class but not meet the entire Assessment. You will have to become skilled at covering multiple bases through one project!
You will receive a separate Assessment for the particular assessments you need. Remember, your projects must address the various criteria of the assessment you are seeking. Students may not get more than 3 Assessments in this course.
Class attendance and class participation will be critical in your final grade. If you are going for an A or a Credit, be sure to come to class, be prepared to discuss the readings, and become an active participant in the discussions. Irregular attendance, unexcused absences, and late assignments will severely affect your letter or C/NC grade.

During the semester you will:
(Acquire Information/Evidence)

  • conceive and design an oral history project that integrates other sources of information to address a real-world community issue or problem;
  • conduct oral and life histories in the field (audio and/or video)
  • collect other information from newspapers or documentary video/film, scholarly books and articles, personal memorabilia, artifacts or photographs, etc.
  • log, transcribe and archive the oral/print/visual data

(Interpret, Evaluate, Use Information)
contextualize, analyze and interpret oral testimony and other information taking into account:

  • - individual, family, community, regional, national, and global histories and issues;
  • - different and competing interpretations and views;
  • - relationship between meaning (content) and the form in which it is represented;
  • - critical approaches to issues of truth, credibility, accuracy, knowledge;
  • - ethical, culturally sensitive, and responsible handling of information;
  • read and apply theory and criticism on oral history and memory to the analysis of your issue;
  • keep a field journal and write reflection essays on critical readings;
  • integrate oral testimony, other documentation, and critical analysis in a final project that advances the purpose of the research in clear, concise, effective, critical, and ethical ways.

(Produce and Present Information)

  • produce a final project in print, audio, video, Webpage or CDRom form;
  • give a class presentation of your research
  • "return" the information gleaned from the research project to the interviewees and community in some publicly accessible format (live or virtual)

(type which assessments wanted for the course)
In developing your projects, you will:

  • learn to relate oral history to various disciplines
  • read, discuss, and apply to your projects theoretical issues of interpretation such as, memory and narrative, ethics of representation, history and truth;
  • discuss ethical and legal dimensions of oral interviewing and accountability to the communities in which you will work;
  • appreciate the role of oral testimony in historical reconstruction, and its importance in social movements for identity and empowerment.

You will have the opportunity to work both individually and collectively, according to the research topics. The class will be conducted as a seminar. Part of each three-hour session will be devoted to methods, part to discussion of critical readings, and once the field work begins, a significant portion of class time will be spent in discussing the projects themselves. We will see films, listen to tapes, and comment critically on them. You will be asked to report on your progress, to share problems and successes, and to seek advice from your fellow students. Your final projects will be shared with the class and hopefully with the public and community.


  1. Integrate living memory and testimony with other methods of research and sources of information in order to analyze real world issues more effectively;
  2. Learn the methods and techniques of oral interviewing and archival documentation;
  3. Conduct in depth oral history and life history interviews, in an ethical, Culturally sensitive, and respectful manner
  4. Interpret the symbolic, cultural, historical, and cognitive meanings in oral narratives and other forms of documentation;
  5. Critically use cultural and socio-historical theories and paradigms to interpret narrative and other texts;
  6. Analyze, interpret and present research in socially and culturally responsible ways, advancing new understanding of issues and problems.
  7. Return research to community and scholarly audiences as a contribution to resolving the problem or issue addressed in the research.



ULR/HCOM MLOs -This course has full built-in assessment for the Info ULR. It also has full built-in assessment for the following Major Learning Outcomes in the Human Communication Major: MLO 2 and 1/2 of MLO 8. Students must inform the professor as to which requirements they are fulfilling (lower or upper division), as the criteria for these differ. Students will be evaluated and graded according to the criteria for the specific requirements they are meeting.

SBS - This course helps meet SBS deliverables in Qualitative Research Methods and SBS students enroll in HCOM 314, and work in consultation with, their Major advisor to present work accomplished in this course for assessment in the major.

Liberal Studies - This course also helps meet Liberal Studies requirements. Liberal Studies students should inform the professor as to which requirements they are meeting so that projects are tailored to these outcomes. Students needed assessment in Global will pay special attention to global implications of their topics of local oral history research. They should consult their major advisor for special assessment with Global Studies.

Service Learning - A small number of students enrolled in this course (no more than 8) may add 2 units of upper division Service Learning in the Major. These students will be placed in community agencies or organizations that are interested in developing oral histories of their organizations. Students will spend an average of 3 additional hours in the field, designing and carrying out oral history interviews for that organization. The work done in the field may be used for the final class project, with the consent of the organization and the professor. Students who add those two units will also have occasional special meetings with the professor, by arrangement, to discuss problems and reflect upon the particular learning taking place in the field.

Assessment Criteria:
The criteria for HCOM ML02 - Research Skills - are the basis for assessment in this course:

Acquiring, interpreting, evaluating, and applying information from diverse sources to the analysis of an issue or problem.
Each of you will identify a specific real-world problem or issue to be investigated in our surrounding communities (including the University) through oral history and other forms of evidence/ documentation. (Liberal Studies students needing assessment in Global will pay special attention to global dimensions of local issues or problems chosen for oral history research).
You must demonstrate the ability to carry out original research and determine what kinds of information are needed to analyze (and resolve) that problem/issue. Oral history will be the primary method of investigation, but you will be expected to use other research strategies and methods (library, internet, archival, visual documentation, field observation, collection of memorabilia, etc.).
You must demonstrate that you are able to acquire this information from diverse sources – giving special weight to recording oral and life history in a local community.
You must demonstrate that You can integrate, interpret, evaluate, and apply the many kinds of information you have gathered: reflecting diverse and competing opinions and interpretations - including your own; establishing hypotheses and testing multiple sources of information against each other; showing the relevance of your findings to theory; and showing that you understand the implications of the methods you have used in the project.
You must make copies your tapes, logs, transcripts, and archival release forms. You are responsible for insuring that your interviewees receive these copies at the end of the project.
You must present your research project so that it can be effectively and meaningfully understood by both scholarly and community audiences.

Specific criteria:
Acquiring Information/Evidence:

  • Does the research project provide information related to an identifiable, significant real-world problem or issue?
  • Does the research prioritize oral history/testimony and significantly include other types of primary and secondary information/evidence (for example historical studies, other scholarly and critical studies, theories, editorial opinions' archival documents, visual materials, data instruments like graphs /surveys/ charts, analyses, etc.)?
  • Does the project include information/evidence from diverse sources (such as scholarly books and journals, newspapers or magazines, the Internet, documentaries, films, televised programs, photographs, diaries, life histories, personal mementos, personal or official archives, etc.)?

Interpreting Information:

  • Does the analysis provide reasonable and dear interpretations of the information?
  • Does the analysis reflect thoughtful consideration of potentially different interpretations?
  • Does the analysis reflect ethical, culturally sensitive, and socially responsible concerns?
  • Does the analysis reflect an understanding of relevant theories and methods of interpretation?
  • Does the analysis contribute original thinking to the problem?
  • Does the analysis consider the relationship between the meaning of the information and the form in which it is represented or preserved?

Evaluating Information:

  • Does the analysis provide critical assessments of the information, including such considerations as source credibility, ideology, multiple and competing interpretations, truthfulness, and accuracy?
  • Does the research assess the degree to which the information contributes to understanding and addressing the relevant issue or problem?

Using Information:

  • Does the research project make primary and effective use of oral testimony?
  • Does it make adequate and effective use of other documentary sources?
  • Does it make effective use of theory and critical analyses?
  • Does it make clear, concise connections between the information and the relevant issue or problem?
  • Does the use of information effectively advance the purpose of the research?

Presenting Information:

  • Does the presentation make primary and effective use of oral testimony?
  • Does it make adequate and effective use of other documentary sources
  • Does it make effective use of critical analysis?
  • Is the research project presented effectively and responsibly?
  • Can it be presented in both a classroom and a community setting?
  • Does the presentation advance the purpose of the research and bring new understanding to the public?
  • Did the interviewees receive copies of their tapes, logs, transcripts, archival release forms?

Lower division students may request to be assessed according to the lesser criteria specified for the INFO ULR.

Additional Criteria for Service Learning:
Students adding 2 units for Oral History Service Learning will be assessed by all the above criteria and the following additional considerations:

  • Did the project reflect an agency/ organization/ community identified need?
  • Did the project prioritize and advance the work of the agency?
  • Did the project advance resolution of the community identified need?
  • Was the project carried out in an ethical, responsible, and culturally sensitive fashion?
  • Did the project integrate the concerns and needs of the agency/ organization in the evaluation and interpretation of the information?
  • Was the performance of the student responsible? Did s/he keep time commitments, report to supervisor, follow supervisor's guidelines, keep interview appointments, follow up with interviewees, and meet the terms of the contract?
  • Was the final project presented to the agency/ organization?
  • Was the work closed-out in an organized fashion and did the agency/ organization received the tapes, transcripts, authorizations, and other documentation?