While we are in the midst of a year without precedent, I am lucky enough to be able to draw upon any number of well worn cliches to describe the current state of the Oral History Center: we’re running on all cylinders, chugging along, moving full steam ahead, and, happily, derailed no more. In this month’s newsletter you’ll see very clear evidence of the work that was accomplished during the months of shelter-in-place: the completion of many long-in-progress oral histories, our first remotely conducted Advanced Oral History Institute, and several other productive initiatives.
We have also moved well beyond the “wrapping up old projects” phase of 2020 and have forged ahead boldly by resuming our core activity of conducting new oral history interviews. Since I last wrote a newsletter column, the OHC team of interviewers has conducted oral histories for our projects with the Getty Trust, East Bay Regional Park District, Sierra Club, and San Francisco Opera—and we’ve done new interviews for our Chicano/a Studies and Women in Politics projects. History cannot wait and we’ve resolved to make progress in spite of the obvious limitations of this strange historical context. As always, we welcome ideas, feedback, and support.
Martin Meeker, Charles B. Faulhaber Director, Oral History Center
Libraries for me are always open, however, due to COVID-19, we can talk all day about how it has restricted our access to the physical spaces and books and periodicals. Thus, our access to electronic editions acquires special importance. We all know the fact that the marginal cost of producing an electronic version is significantly lower than the price we pay to purchase a multi-user, unlimited simultaneous user license for an electronic book. Thus, as UC has already noted that Open Access becomes a point of departure from the traditional business models. In Latin America as well as in many parts of the global south, OA means even more due to institutional budgetary constraints.
One such journal that provides insight into the life in Uruguay is “Mundo Uruguayo.” Its issues have been digitized for the period from 1919-1967 and are available in the repository of “Universidad de la Republica (UdelaR)“.
Image 1: The digitized issues of Mundo Uruguayo.
The database can be searched for the individual issues and these can be downloaded in their PDF format. The image below shows a specific issue of Mundo Uruguayo, which due to its illustrated nature provides the user interesting insights into the evolution of society.
Image 2: The landing page of the digitized 1951 issues of Mundo Uruguayo.
As with most things this year, the 2020 Oral History Association conference will be held digitally. The theme, “The Quest for Democracy: One Hundred Years of Struggle,” was inspired by the Centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, yet excluded Black men and women in the Jim Crow South. In choosing this theme, we hoped to encourage submissions that interrogate the idea of “Democracy,” its inherent assumptions and challenges; submissions of oral history projects that illuminate the ways in which we participate in democracy, who has access to the political process and who has historically struggled to gain such access.
OHC’s own Shanna Farrell and the Smithsonian’s Kelly Navies (who is one of our Advanced Summer Institute alumni!) served as the conference co-chairs and are very excited to kick off what promises to be an engaging and dynamic week of presentations.
If you’re attending next week, we’d love for you to check out sessions from the OHC staff. Here’s the lineup:
Monday, October 19:
Amanda Tewes leading “An Oral Historian’s Guide to Public History” workshop from 11am – 2:30pm ET/8 – 11:30am PT
Wednesday, October 21:
Paul Burnett will be on the “Educating in High School and University Involves Listening” panel talking about UC Berkeley OHC K16 Outreach Project: The HIV/AIDS Curriculum Pilot at 3:30pm ET/12:30 PT
Shanna Farrell will be chairing the “Oral History for an Audience: Podcasts, Performance, and Documentaries” session at 3:30pm ET/12:30 PT
Thursday, October 22:
Roger Eardley-Pryor will be talking to OHC narrator Aaron Mair for the “Hitched to Everything: Aaron Mair, Environmental Justice, and the Sierra Club” session that will be chaired by Shanna Farrell at 3:30pm ET/12:30 PT
This novel tells the story of Brenden Vetch, who is invited from his farm to a school for magical learning by a giantess named Od. The school’s operations are tightly regulated by the city, in particular by its king, who aims to control how and which magic is taught and practiced there. Brenden’s ability to develop his self identity, magical skills, and interpersonal relationships is tied up in the tension between what magic is permissible and what is not. And the story’s resolution hinges on the possibility of transforming the magic school so that its underlying exclusions are incorporated. As such, this book may be of interest to students who are eager to participate in ongoing social movements, including those that seek to recognize and change the structural limitations of the university—limitations that ultimately impede the richness of scholarly discovery.
Department of Rhetoric
“I’ve actually heard that what you think of as your earliest childhood memory has a certain importance, but not because it’s necessarily your first memory. Just that having that association as your first memory means that you’ve placed a certain importance on it, for whatever that’s worth.” — Janet Daijogo
Janet Daijogo’s first real memory was the day military police knocked on her door and gave her family two weeks to relocate. It was during World War II, and she was Sansei or third-generation Japanese American. “The whole thing was just shrouded by fear,” she recalls during her oral history for The Bancroft Library in 2011. There was a fear of police knocking at her door and the uncertainty of where she was going to live. She realizes in retrospect that this memory was like a “body imprint” that influenced her personality, and something she carried with her into adulthood.
Janet Daijogo was born on March 21, 1937 in San Francisco, California. At age five, she and her family were relocated to internment camps at Tanforan Racetrack and Topaz, Utah, during WW2. Post incarceration, she followed in her mother’s footsteps and attended UC Berkeley. Today, Daijogo is a veteran kindergarten teacher at Marin Country Day school, having taught children for 40-plus years. She incorporates Aikido, a noncompetitive form of martial art, in her teaching, and attributes her journey in teaching and Aikido as a mental practice where she found her space and purpose.
Daijogo remembers moving to Topaz after a few months in Tanforan. Her parents carried on with hope or gaman, the belief in Japanese culture that they “can get through this kind of thing, and we do not complain.” While she does not remember much about Tanforan as a child, she recalls barracks with dirty wooden floors and sheetless cots, and mess halls with long waiting lines that served food on metal dishes. But Daijogo most distinctly recalls the large fences that encased the Topaz camp along the grey landscape, and how her imagination went wild about the people and mystery outside the fence.
After the war, the Daijogo family moved to Oklahoma. There, she remembers seeing black-white segregated bathrooms and being unsure about which one to enter. Daijogo recalls feeling divided, saying “I think at that moment . . . I realized that I was not one of them. I was not white, I was an outlier. I was somebody on the fringes.”
From fourth grade onwards through high school, Janet Daijogo lived on an American Army base in Japan. She describes the unfamiliarity about not knowing the language or dressing like her peers, and becoming more ‘Americanized’ in Japan. “There was this distance,” she remembers. “I did not really identify with them even though they looked like me.” Later, she looks back on her childhood and high school years by saying, “I think one of the themes of my life is being the outsider and finding the comfort of that, where to be, how to be in that situation.”
Janet Daijogo attended UC Berkeley, majoring in child development and minoring in history. Both her parents were Cal alumni and strongly valued education, but her mother was especially proud of attending Berkeley. Janet describes how “unusual” that her mom was able to attend Cal and how “it was also an important part of her identity.” Like many Berkeley students today, Daijogo felt the same excitement in anticipation for school. She describes the feeling of picking up books for the start of the semester, saying “there’s a real energy in them…like you’re getting ready to explore something out there.” But while Daijigo describes her experience as “amazing,” she also remembers thinking, ”oh my God, what am I doing here with all these smart people?”
After graduation, Daijigo and her new husband Sam moved to Japan, where she taught at an international school. While she still was seen as a foreigner, this time she experienced Japan more outside her American bubble. Once they returned to the US, Daijogo stayed at home to raise her children. However she quickly felt discouraged. She recalls that her “sense of purpose and personal value that comes from work” was missing, because she could not express her academic side. This was when she found a job at the Marin Child Development Center teaching emotionally disturbed children. First, she recalls coming home and crying every day for four or five months, frustrated at the difficulty of teaching children. Yet over time, Daijogo found there was something about these situations she had no control over. With the help of her mentor, Janet Daijogo realized that she was not the cause, but she also could not magically make them happy. She was just “part of the journey.”
Around this time, Janet Daijogo found Aikido. For Daijogo, Aikido was a space for reflection and grounding, where she found her “center, a place of stability and of ‘okayness’, of feeling good, of relaxation and of power.” She integrated the practice of Aikido into her teaching curriculum, and stressed the importance of cultivating a supportive relationship with oneself to students at a young age. Janet Daijigo discovered that she needed to treat herself in the same way she had taught the children; like them, she was “part of the journey.” Today, Janet Daijigo is a grandmother who still teaches at Marin Country Day and still practices Aikido. About accepting uncertainty and understanding the self, Janet Daijigo says, “I think at this stage in my life I now know what I know, and I know what I don’t know.”
This year marks the 150th anniversary of women being admitted to UC Berkeley on “equal terms as men,” as approved by the Board of Regents in 1870. Since the doors were opened that first year, there have been an innumerable number of accomplished women graduates from Berkeley who have gone on to contribute meaningful work in STEM and humanities, excel in sports, devote their lives to public service and communities, and introduce new and valuable perspectives on old patterns of thought. From looking at their outward accomplishments alone, it seems like large shoes for today’s students to fill. As a student studying remotely this year, I would not be surprised that many of us are anxious about school or future career prospects, health and wellbeing, financial issues, or the news in general. But Daijogo’s oral history stood out to me, because she openly speaks about the mental challenges of stressful life events and the importance of self care and patience. Her vulnerable story reminds us that that life is a journey of continued learning, and we are all along for the ride.
Deborah Qu is a sophomore at UC Berkeley and is majoring in psychology. As a research assistant for the UC Berkeley Oral History Center, she developed a collection guide to UC Berkeley Women Oral Histories, which is available on the Berkeley Women 150 and Oral History Center websites.
Read the Daijogo oral history: Janet Daijogo, A Life’s Journey: From Child of the Incarceration to Master Teacher, Translating the Truths of Aikido for the Kindergarten Classroom.
Sebastian Münster, Hebrew scholar and theologian, was a curious man, a seeker and a risk taker. First a professor of Old Testament Studies, Münster reinvented himself. In 1536, he accepted a teaching position in mathematics at the University of Basel, in Switzerland.
And Münster developed a sideline that came to define how we remember him today–he worked as a cartographer and cosmographer. Already in 1536, he released a Mappa Europae, later followed by a Latin edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. But Sebastian Münster’s legacy is wrapped up in his Cosmographia of 1544, a book that managed the rare feat of being both scientific and popular. It was a runaway bestseller which described and explained the cosmos. In fact, it revolutionized how 16th century readers thought about the physical world.
From 1544 to 1628 the work passed through 40 editions in German, Latin, Czech, Italian, French and English and somehow persuaded educated Europeans to get interested in geography. Münster was assisted by more than one hundred and twenty collaborators. Famous woodcut artists contributed illustrations and that surely must have helped. The richly illustrated Latin version published in 1550 is the most prized edition today, in part because of its amazing city views.
But there was something else in the Cosmographia that rightfully fascinated readers: Four maps which struck a mortal blow at the medieval world view that ordered the physical world based on religious ideas. For centuries, medieval mappae mundi [= world maps] had depicted the known world, Asia, Africa and Europe, arranged in a Jerusalem-centered T-O design. Separate maps of individual continents were extremely rare in the European Middle Ages.
Münster made a radical choice. He insisted that this divinely ordered world, God’s creation, could be disassembled and depicted in parts, on different maps, which together would make up the known world. For his Cosmographia Sebastian Münster created four separate maps to depict the four known continents– the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. That includes his now famous depiction of the Western Hemisphere.
In early August 2020, OHC staff gathered once more for a weeklong event: our annual Advanced Summer Institute, where we teach the methodology, theory, and practice of oral history to other practitioners. In 2020, however, COVID-19 upended our best intentions for an in-person event, and the OHC made the bold decision to turn this weeklong seminar – from lectures to small group discussions to interview exercises – into an all-digital experience. Certainly this was a sharp left turn for our office and required retooling. Nonetheless, we had a record number of applicants and 50 participants from around the world, which proves that the demand for oral history education remains strong even during a global pandemic. Despite changes for this year’s Advanced Summer Institute, I am now better able to appreciate what remains constant about the practice of oral history.
One way in which this all-digital format changed the Advanced Summer Institute was in increasing its international draw. In previous years, we have welcomed a smattering of participants from around the world. Admittedly, however, the additional cost for traveling internationally to Berkeley is something that has kept these numbers relatively low. In 2020, our all-digital format not only eliminated the cost of this travel, it also created a space for participants from several continents and timezones to join us for stimulating discussions – even in the wee hours of the morning – and share a variety of perspectives about interviewing across different cultures. Especially during a time when we are socially distancing from even our closest friends and neighbors, it was a joy to see people from around the world gather together in this way.
What did not change in our 2020 Advanced Summer Institute was the OHC’s emphasis on teaching oral history best practice through both practical experience and shared knowledge. Indeed, we doubled down on connecting participants to one another through an expanded interview exercise, wherein paired individuals planned a pre-interview and then engaged in 30-minute oral histories. They then switched roles so both could experience conducting an oral history and participating in one. From initial feedback, participants found this a valuable activity because it taught them how to ask better questions and to empathize with narrators. We also made sure to continue our small group discussions in the digital format so that participants could present their individual projects and ask for feedback in a smaller setting. This, too, proved important to sustain.
Despite these many successes, it is still important to acknowledge what we lost in this new digital format for the 2020 Advanced Summer Institute: the conversations in between sessions or during lunch that lead to meaningful connections, hands-on help with recording equipment, a distraction-free week of learning, and a sense of place near our offices at UC Berkeley. And yet, participating in this seminar – and indeed working as oral historians in the era of COVID-19 – seems to have encouraged all of us to examine the role of storytelling and documentation in this challenging moment. The resounding chorus I heard at the Advanced Summer Institute was that now more than ever we need oral history to help humanize the past and record the present. Personally, this experience reinforced my desire to connect with people – even over long distances – especially the narrators I interview in my own oral history practice.