centering: bringing an anti-oppression lens to oral history work by Groundswell launches with an interview featuring Amy Starecheski

OHMA is very pleased to share a video interview with its Associate Director, Amy Starecheski, as part of centering: bringing an anti-oppression lens to oral history work, an exciting new initiative by Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change. centering is a free, online, interview-based resource guide featuring stories of anti-oppression principles in action in oral history work. Groundswell was founded as part of an OHMA thesis project by alum Sarah Loose.

Interviewee: Amy Starecheski
Amy Starecheski is the Associate Director of the Oral History MA Program at Columbia University and received a PhD in cultural anthropology from the CUNY Graduate Center. She consults and lectures widely on oral history education and methods, and is co-author of the Telling Lives Oral History Curriculum Guide. She was a lead interviewer on Columbia’s September 11, 2001 Narrative and Memory Project, for which she interviewed Afghans, Muslims, Sikhs, activists, low-income people, and the unemployed. Starecheski is a member of the Core Working Group for Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change, where she facilitates the Practitioner Support Network. Her book, Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.  

Interviewer: Cynthia Tobar
Cynthia Tobar is an archivist and oral historian who started "Cities for People, Not for Profit": Gentrification and Housing Activism in Bushwick, which is collecting first-hand stories from artists, activists, and community residents in Bushwick, Brooklyn on gentrification/housing issues taking place in the neighborhood, as well as documenting what community activism efforts have been like for local organizations such as Make the Road NY and El Puente. She is also the founder of the WRI Oral History Project, which is documenting the Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI), a grassroots student activist and community leadership training organization located at Hunter College. Currently, Cynthia is an Archivist and Assistant Professor at Bronx Community College, where she is establishing their first Archive and Oral History program.

Summary: Amy describes how she incorporates an anti-oppression framework into both her teaching, as a professor of Columbia's Masters program in Oral History, as well as her own projects. In particular, she describes the importance of engaging in a process of ongoing consent and the interviewer's responsibility to reflect on and gauge their power and privilege in an interviewer/interviewee dynamic.

Interview Date: July 8th, 2015

For more detailed metadata, visit the interview page on the Groundswell site.

Check out other interviews for centering and find out how to participate in building this collection here.

More about centering

In a series of short and candid video/audio conversations, Groundswell members will share concrete examples of how anti-oppression values influence their interview projects, from project design to methods of consent to negotiating power and privilege within the interview space and beyond. Practitioners from diverse communities and backgrounds will share inspirational breakthroughs, pragmatic successes, go-to techniques, and humbling and teachable moments.  

Once completed, we hope this guide will help you reflect on and deepen your own commitment to centering anti-oppression values and principles in your oral history practice. But we need your help to create it!  

How we came to the Centering project: The stories that we tell ourselves have the power to heal and galvanize us or isolate us and normalize our own oppression. By reclaiming the power embedded within our stories, we can be more intentional and strategic in dismantling systems that infringe upon our individual and collective humanity and dignity. 

The opportunity to do so is found at the nexus of storytelling and movement building. Though Groundswell’s Centering Project, we seek to focus our efforts on this intersection and welcome you to connect and collaborate with us. 

The wisdom passed down through countless generations tells us that we are more powerful together. Our strength is in honoring the incredibly expansive nuances and relationships our movement encompasses. With your help, we are better equipped to envision and create the world we ultimately want to live in. 

Help us center justice within our movements and keep this groundswell going by sharing your own stories on how you incorporate anti-oppression principles into your work.