Biennial Conference 2021 – CFP

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2021 OHA Biennial Conference

Oral History in Troubling Times: Opportunities & Challenges

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Call for Presentations

Closed 1 April 2021

Oral History Australia (OHA) plans to meet in solidarity and optimism for our biennial conference in Tasmania in 2021, and we are now confident about holding a face-to-face conference for Australian and New Zealand participants –  if circumstances change and that proves to be impossible, we will run our conference online. So please do send in your proposal!

Our conference theme invites you to reflect on the challenges and issues of undertaking oral history in troubling times, and to consider how oral history can illuminate the lived experience of troubling times both in the past and in our contemporary world. Through oral history recordings, we hear the intimate stories of everyday lives, and we create histories that challenge orthodoxy and speak truth to power. Oral history drills beneath the big histories of state, society, and politics. It illuminates ordinary people’s extraordinary lives and the ways in which people deal with the troubles of their lives and of our world.

Oral History Tasmania and Oral History Australia, in partnership with the College of Arts, Law and Education at the University of Tasmania and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, welcome proposals for our 2021 biennial conference in the island jewel of Tasmania. Oral historians, in a variety of guises and combining age-old listening skills with dazzling new technologies, record intimate stories and create challenging histories. Our conference welcomes participants who use oral history in their work across the many fields and disciplines that contribute to community, professional and academic histories. We welcome presenters from Tasmania and across Australia, and from across the Tasman and around the world. We invite proposals for individual presentations, workshops, performances, and thematic panels.

The main conference at the Tramsheds Function Centre, Launceston, will be on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 October 2021, with plenary panels focusing on Oral History in Troubling Times and on Aboriginal Oral History in Tasmania. Oral history training workshops will be scheduled on Thursday 14 October. On Sunday 17 October we will host a selection of post-conference tours.

Our introductory keynote speaker is Mark Cave, Past President of the International Oral History Association, Senior Curator at The Historic New Orleans Collection, and co-editor of Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis (2014). Mark’s keynote is titled ‘Why Did This Happen? Making Meaningful Answers in the Aftermath of Crisis’. Mark will explore the limitations of the media in the aftermath of crisis and argue that oral history has an important role to play alongside journalism in creating explanations that not only help communities move beyond crisis but help them move beyond crisis in ways that make them stronger.

Conference sub-themes

Conference sub-themes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Recording Oral Histories during the Pandemic
  • Doing Oral History in Troubling Times
  • New Approaches to Recording Lives
  • New Technologies for Documenting and Archiving Oral Histories
  • Interpreting Memories
  • Making Histories in Old and New Media
  • Performing Oral History
  • Using Oral History in Creative Writing
  • Ethical Issues in Oral History
  • Training the Oral Historians of the Future
  • Indigenous Oral Histories and Oral Traditions
  • Migrants, Refugees and Ethnic Community Histories
  • Gender, Women’s History, Men’s History
  • Family History and Memory
  • Histories of Sex and Sexuality
  • Leisure and Pleasure
  • Histories of Protest and Activism
  • Memory Work for Human Rights
  • Contested Memories and Histories
  • Working Lives and Social Class
  • Sensory Memory and History
  • Place, Community, Memory
  • War Stories and War Histories
  • Memory, Violence and Catastrophe


We welcome proposals for presentations in a variety of formats and media, including standard paper presentations (typically 20 minutes); short ‘lightning’ accounts of work in progress (typically 5 minutes); participatory workshops; performances; thematic panels comprising several presenters; and poster presentations. Presentations should involve oral history. Contact the Chair of the Conference Program Committee, Professor Alistair Thomson, ( if you would like to discuss the format or focus of your presentation before you submit it.

Proposals for presentations / papers / panels / posters should be no more than 200 words (single space, 12 point font in Times New Roman) and must include at the top of the page, your name, institutional affiliation (if applicable), postal address, phone number and email address, the title for your presentation/panel, the sub-theme/s your work best connects to, and the presentation format (standard 20 minute paper; 5 minute ‘lightning’ account of work in progress; thematic panel; performance; participatory workshop; or poster presentation).

Presenters will be encouraged to submit papers to the refereed, online Oral History Australia journal, Studies in Oral History, whose editors aim to produce a themed issue about ‘Oral History in Troubling Times’ in 2022.


Proposals should be uploaded to EasyChair via this link:

To use this online conference management system, you will need to create an author account (a simple process) and then submit your proposal by uploading it as a PDF document (with full details as listed above). Please follow the instructions provided on the OHA website if you are unfamiliar with EasyChair. Download the EasyChair instructions.

If you are unable to use this system, please email your proposal as a PDF attachment to Dr Annmarie Reid at

Further information

For conference information or to join the conference mailing list, email our Oral History Tasmania host Jill Cassidy ( or go to the conference website.

Updated 5 February 2020
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Conference – key facts


14-17 October 2021


Tramsheds Function Centre, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia


Closing date for presentation proposals – 1 April 2021

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