Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Alessandro Portelli, March 4, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Attending first Oral History Association annual meeting

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Partial Transcript: So, I'll just pretend I am Doug Boyd. So we are approaching the 50th anniversary of the Oral History Association

Segment Synopsis: Portelli describes the first time he attended the Oral History Association annual meeting in 1981. The meeting was held in Burlington, Vermont. Describes a panel discussing the concept of "elite" oral history.

Keywords: Burlington, VT; Oral History Association; Oral History Association annual meeting, 1981; Richard Sweterlitsch; Rob Perks; Vermont

Subjects: Oral History Association

00:02:12 - A sense of acceptance at OHA

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Partial Transcript: But other than that, I don't have too many memories. Except something that I always found in all oral history environments, both OHA and IOHA internationally. There is an acceptance.

Segment Synopsis: Discusses the the oral history professional and academic community and their"acceptance" of "newcomers," non professionals and community scholars.

Keywords: International Oral History Association; Oral History Association

00:03:03 - Friends and colleagues in the oral history community

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned some names, I am curious, if there are other people from that first meeting

Segment Synopsis: Portelli recalls meeting friends and collegagues in his early years in the oral history community. Discusses the environment of oral history and the connections and friendships that were established.

Keywords: Albuquerque, NM; Baltimore, MD; Charlie Hardy; Cliff Kuhn; Columbia University; Mary Marshall Clark; Philadelphia, PA; Rina Benmayor; Ron Grele; conferences; connections; friendships

00:06:31 - OHA in St. Louis, MO: Debating the war in Afghanistan

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Partial Transcript: St. Louis, we had this very interesting experience, because St. Louis was the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.

Segment Synopsis: Recalls the Oral History Association annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri in 1991, and the discussions over the war in Afghanistan.

Keywords: ; Oral History Association; St. Louis, MO; War Afghanistan; annual meeting

00:07:09 - Why is the Oral History Association important?

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned some tolerance, and acceptance, and equality, egalitarianism. But, I am wondering if you could reflect, generally, on why you feel the OHA is important?

Segment Synopsis: Addresses the question "Why is the Oral History Association important?". Describes the OHA as a place where "the professional and the activists meet." Discusses the importance of the international context for a practitioner in Italy, reflects on his "outsider" status in the OHA. Admits that he was not involved in the mechanics or the "dirty work" of running the association.

Keywords: Anne Campbell; Doug Boyd; Italian Oral History Association; Louisville, KY; Terry Birdwhistell

00:09:55 - International Controversy: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

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Partial Transcript: I'll give you one other thought, I was at the..which is critical. I was at the conference in Oklahoma City and at that time I was the object of a lot of international controversy.

Segment Synopsis: Discusses the international controversy regarding his role in an oral history conference at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He reflects on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel's occupation of Palestinian land. Reflects on attacks on him for his role in the conference.

Keywords: BDS; Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions; Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Israel; Oklahoma City, OK; Palestinian land; Palestinian people; occupation

00:14:26 - What has the Oral History Association meant to you?

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Partial Transcript: We're here in the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky and, yesterday, Doug Boyd was introducing you at an event and he said you were the "Bruce Springsteen" of oral history

Segment Synopsis: Portelli reflects on Doug Boyd's analogy of Portelli being the "Bruce Springsteen" of oral history. Finally, Portelli talks about what the Oral History Association has meant to him over the years.

Keywords: Bruce Springsteen; Doug Boyd; Luisa Passerini; Oral History Association