OHR Call for Submissions for Upcoming Special Issue on Disrupting Best Practices

The Oral History Review invites submissions with a special focus on ways that oral historians have disrupted our field’s “best practices” and challenged the status quo. Submit full articles by 1 June 2022.

As oral historians, we define our field by a set of commonly-held best practices — the conventions that distinguish our work from journalism, ethnography, folklore, and amateur recordings. 

But what if our best practices prevent us from innovating, reaching new communities and audiences, and more thoughtfully listening to and preserving stories? How do practitioners in the field of oral history–whether interviewers, archivists, community organizers, activists, historians, folklorists, or other scholars–approach and adapt these guidelines? OHR’s mission is to interrogate the methods and theories of the discipline, and at times this may mean reimagining conventional standards and upending the way we approach our practice.

Many practitioners have already engaged in these processes of questioning our methods, including authors in our recent special section on oral history and COVID-19 and our special issue on ethics in oral history. Likewise, through recent initiatives and in informal conversations, practitioners are considering how we can do our work better. For example, Jess Lamar Reece Hollar’s proposed new guidelines for equity budgeting, the Oral History Association published the Independent Practitioners’ Toolkit for Oral Historians created by the e Independent Practitioners’ Task Force to address alternative ways of working in the field without institutional affiliation, and the Oral History in the Digital Age project has published new guidelines that respond to the digital environment. Mary Rizzo’s recent blog post, “Is Sharing Authority a Cop-Out?” questioned one of the most revered tenets of oral history; Crystal Baik’s forthcoming OHR article “From “Best” to Situated and Relational: Notes Toward a Decolonizing Praxis,” challenges ideas including copyright and archival ownership, while Fanny Garcia has focused on distinct practices for interviewing migrant families.

The Oral History Review invites oral history practitioners to submit articles considering ways they have disrupted best practices in order to adapt and change the mold. Questions prospective authors might consider include, but are not limited to:

  • When might it be appropriate to compensate narrators for their testimonies? What are the logistics, challenges, and benefits of such practices?
  • How have digital technologies changed approaches to disseminating and analyzing interviews? How have scholars used interviewees’ words as data? How can we examine oral history at the macro level instead of at the micro level?
  • In what ways have oral historians attempted to decolonize the archive? 
  • How can practitioners adapt the tenets of shared authority and informed consent when necessary? How does anonymizing interviews change these practices?
  • Should oral historians embrace institutional review, or embrace being treated as journalists?
  • How do social media and easily shared video and audio change the gold standard of the life history interview?

We ask that all completed article manuscripts be submitted to the Oral History Review no later than 1 June 2022 through Routledge’s ScholarOne system. Please include “(Special Focus on Best Practices)” at the end of the title of your piece. Should you have any questions, feel free to get in touch.


Featured Image: “Headphones in Black and White” by Image Catalog. Public Domain via Flickr.