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In Event: Places of Privilege, Places of Struggle: Oral Histories of Activism and Movement Building in the University
Since 2007, students and faculty associated with the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (CSGS) have partnered with University archivists at Special Collections Research Center to build archival collections documenting the experiences of women and LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students on campus. By 2014-2015, these projects will have resulted in a deposit of approximately 150 alumni oral histories to the University archives (and a small amount of papers and memorabilia donated by alumni and staff); an undergraduate internship program in oral history; two publications--’On Equal Terms’: Educating Women at the University of Chicago (2009) and Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles (forthcoming, 2015); and four archives-based undergraduate history seminars. The oral histories—cross-generational meetings between current University students and alumni, faculty, and staff—are at the core of these projects. Taken individually, they reflect the careers and interests of the narrators; taken collectively they form a part of the historical record of the University and its surrounding communities in the 20th and 21st centuries.
This paper will shed light on the uses of college oral histories for documenting feminist and queer organizing from the late 1960s the present day, and the impact those histories can have in the college classroom and online, aimed at a broader audience interested in movement histories. In doing so, this paper will also consider institutional constraints with the wider world of feminist and queer archiving, placing university collecting efforts in conversation with other contemporary projects to documenting “alternative” histories and movement stories. What are the feminist and queer possibilities of the oral history archive? Is what’s “queer on the quads” still queer in an institutional context?