8 May 2019 Family Memories of War and Flight

8 May 2019 from 4.10 pm – 5.30 pm
Stout Research Centre, 12 Waiteata Rd, Kelburn

Presenter: Professor Alexander Freund
How do families “reminisce” about the experience of war and flight? In this presentation, I look at interviews with members of three families who experienced state violence and displacement in the wake of the Second World War. Two of the three refugees (men born in Central Europe between 1928 and 1936) were interviewed in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1978 and 1989, respectively. In order to help us understand how memories and stories change over long personal, familial, and historical time periods, we re-interviewed the two men in 2012/13. We then interviewed some of their children and grandchildren to help us understand how stories of war and flight had been transferred across – and negotiated among – generations. These artificially “re-constructed,” partial family memories were characterised by sparse interaction, silences, unspoken assumptions, and imagined memories. Later generations added new details and re-interpreted their elders’ stories to better fit their own lives. Such findings raise more questions: What exactly is “family memory”? What kind of a “family memory” is this – or is it “family memory” at all? How can we use such memories for our study of history, the history of memory, and the historical role of memory in society?


Alexander Freund is a Professor of History at the University of Winnipeg, where he holds the Chair in German-Canadian Studies and serves as the Director of the Oral History Centre. A native of Germany and immigrant to Canada, Freund has been focusing on the transatlantic, especially German-North American, history of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Recent publications include: History, Memory, and Generations: German-Canadian Experiences in the Twentieth Century (forthcoming); The Canadian Oral History Reader (2015, edited with Kristina Llewellyn and Nolan Reilly); Oral History and Ethnic History (2014); “Under Storytelling’s Spell? Oral History in a Neo-liberal Age” (Oral History Review, 2015); “Transnationalising Home in Winnipeg: Refugees’ Stories of the Places Between the “Here-and-There”” (Canadian Ethnic Studies, 2015); and, ““Confessing Animals”: Toward a Longue Durée History of the Oral History Interview” (Oral History Review, 2014).

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    Read the flyer

    The Winter School in Advanced Oral History is designed for members of the public and postgraduate students who are thinking about or starting a research project that includes oral history interviews. The course will benefit those with previous oral history or qualitative interview experience who wish to extend and deepen their knowledge of the field, and those interested in recording, understanding and contextualising family memories.

    You will examine different approaches to oral history including those based upon Mātauranga Māori/Kaupapa Māori and learn the steps required to construct a methodologically robust, ethical oral history research proposal. As you progress, you will discuss how to frame the research goals, find the interview cohort, choose an interview format, and contextualise your material.

    By the end of the course you will have learned about different research methods and formulated a draft oral history research proposal. There will also be the opportunity to discuss possible forms of publication.

    A limited number of Māori, Pasifika and financial hardship scholarships are available – see the application form for details on how to apply.

    Scholarship applications close Monday 15 July
    Notification of decision Monday 29 July

    Course Objectives:

    • Formulate an oral history research proposal

    • Learn about different research methods and modes of analysis

    • Be introduced to Mātauranga Māori/Kaupapa Māori approaches to oral history

    • Consider the relationship between memory and history

    Recommended Reading List:

    • Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson, eds, The Oral History Reader, 2nd ed (Routledge, 2006).

    • Anna Green and Megan Hutching, eds, Remembering: Writing Oral History (Auckland University Press, 2004).

    Course Outline:


    1. Introduction: What do we know about memory/remembering?

    2. What is oral history? Approaches and debates

    3. Mātauranga Māori/Kaupapa Māori approaches to oral history

    4. Framing the purpose and goals of your oral history project

    5. Who do I want to interview and how do I find them?

    6. Workshop exercise: drafting part one of proposal


    7. The recorded interview and interview questions

    8. Ethics: agreement and consent

    9. Analysis: social and cultural historical context

    10. Analysis: narrative form

    11. The relationship between memory and history

    12. Workshop exercise: finalizing your oral history project proposal


    The course will be collaboratively taught by Associate Professor Anna Green, Stout Research Centre; Dr Arini Loader History programme, Victoria University of Wellington; and public historian Megan Hutching.

    A nna Green

    Associate Professor Anna Green is a member of the Stout Research Centre in New Zealand Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. Oral history and the relationship between memory and history have been at the centre of her research and publications, with a focus upon working lives and communities, environmental disaster, and the family. Her current Marsden researc​_h project on Pākehā intergenerational family memory is entitled ‘The Missing Link’.

    Arini Loader

    Dr Arini Loader is a lecturer in the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington. She specialises in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand. Her current research projects include a collaborative project with Dr Michael Ross on a collection of waiata (song) texts written by Māori taken prisoner following the battle of Rangiriri in the New Zealand Wars.

    Megan Hutching

    Megan Hutching is a freelance historian and oral historian with over 25 years’ experience in these fields. Her recent oral history work includes commissioned oral history projects for the New Zealand Association of Women Judges, and Engineering NZ, as well as a number of life history interviews for families. Personal oral history projects include the Auckland harbour bridge, and the domestic lives of New Zealand women in the mid-twentieth century.

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