In this fractured time, how do we listen to workers’ stories? This PSN is a chance for workers, oral historians, activists, and anyone else who considers listening essential to advancing economic justice share ideas with one another about how we listen to workers and what we do with what we learn. We’re interested in tackling the difficult questions we face as interviewers. How do interviewers make sure not to re-create the power imbalance that pervades social existence? How does an intersectional framework affect how interviewers ask questions of, and listen to, workers? How can we create safe spaces where workers can share their experiences without putting themselves at risk, whether from employers or ICE?
This is also a chance to talk about how we help turn listening into action. If we believe that workers’ stories can make a difference in campaigns for social and economic justice, how do we help make this so? Participants in the PSN will share experiences from work we’ve done and we will share ideas for new ways to collect and share workers’ stories in the push for greater equality. For instance, in 2014, to mark the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, PSN Co-facilitator Terrell Frazier helped run an intensive summer of an in-the-field organizing and oral history documentation project with Walmart workers, organizers, and community members. The project, which is ongoing, aims to archive and disseminate more than 150 interviews. Terrell will share some of the challenges and lessons learned.
Terrell Frazier is a Ph.D. student in Sociology and a Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow at Columbia University. Before joining the Sociology Department, Terrell completed his M.A. in African-American Studies at Columbia University, where he also worked as the Director of Education and Outreach for the Columbia Center for Oral History Research and as a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics. While at the Center for Oral History Research, he launched the Telling Lives: Oral History for Social Change workshop series and co-edited Documenting and Interpreting Conflict Through Oral History. His current research explores—using both narrative and network methods—the relationship between social movement actors’ social positions and their capacities for strategic action.
Leyla Vural is an oral historian, writer, and editor in New York City and has worked in the workers’ rights movement for more than 20 years. Leyla is a member of the board of the New York Labor History Association, which is dedicated to remembering working-class history and using that history to inform efforts to win justice for workers. As a member of the Field Research Team for The Civilians, she conducts interviews that are edited into original theater. She has an M.A. in oral history from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in geography from Rutgers University.