Staring Out to Sea and the Transformative Power of Oral History for Undergraduate Interviewers

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In January 2013, Abigail Perkiss, assistant professor of history at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, began work with six undergraduate students to develop an oral history project to document Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. For several months, these students worked to set the parameters and scope of the project, while at the same time studying the work of oral history and preparing themselves to go into the field to recruit participants and conduct interviews. For a number of these students, themselves impacted by the storm, the project took them into their own communities to capture the stories of their neighbors and friends. The students gained new insights into their own agency in the world; they turned their own feelings of victimization after the storm into a sense of ownership and control during the recovery process; and they felt empowered as both historians and as historical actors to effect change in the world around them. This essay traces the transformative impact of the Staring Out to Sea Oral History Project on these undergraduates.

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Oral History Review

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