Oral history and human rights: the archive and disability at Winnipeg's Oral History Centre

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McPherson, Emily
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Carlos Sosa, a member of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD) and the principal investigator in the MLPD Oral History Project, stated in a 2021 oral history interview that “it’s absolutely critical that we understand history, but we also learn from history to come up with a way forward where our most vulnerable are considered” (Sosa, 2021). Through this statement Sosa demonstrates the way that human rights and oral history intersect while highlighting the impact that research occurring at this intersection can have on human lives. During my Master of Human Rights (MHR) practicum placement at the Oral History Centre (OHC), I was able to interview Sosa as well as immerse myself in the theoretical and practical aspects of the production of oral history archives. Working at the intersection of human rights and oral history, I realized that although I previously felt that there was no space for someone with my backgrounds, interests, and experience in the field of human rights studies, there was in fact a gap between the oral history and human rights offering me an opportunity to insert myself and my competencies into an academic field that I am passionate about. I entered a Master of Human Rights program and the discipline of human rights studies anticipating being able to make use of my historical training. While this has occurred to some extent, I do not feel historical theory, specifically theory that informs the practice of oral history, has had its potential fully realized in the discipline of human rights. While at the OHC I witnessed the way that human rights are present in the collection, production, and accessibility of oral histories. This experience at the OHC reinforced my perceptions of the necessary relationship between oral history and human rights, even as it also showed me that the two approaches have not yet fully realized the potential arising from their intersection.
Oral History, Human Rights, Archives, Disability, Winnipeg, Manitoba