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Volume: 45, Issue: 2 (2017)
Dealing with sensitive topics in communist societies: oral history research in and on Cuba
This themed issue on oral history research in Cuba focuses on how researchers and participants deal with sensitive topics during the interview process. The issue highlights that any topic can be a sensitive topic when interviewing participants who have lived and still live in a communist society. It will offer various reflexive perspectives on the interview process, focusing in particular on how both researcher and participant address such topics, and on how these approaches are later analysed and interpreted by the researcher.
Author(s): Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla and Olga Lidia Saavedra Montes de Oca
Keywords: Cuban oral history; sensitive topics; communist societies; insider/outsider dichotomy

Cuban doctors in Sandinista Nicaragua: challenging orthodoxies
Oral history has tended to give voice to the voiceless. However, it is also used in different contexts and for different purposes. This article offers insight into life stories of a privileged group: Cuban health professionals who joined international solidarity missions, whose openness about their experiences and sensitive topics varies. Analysing life stories of two doctors, now living in exile, who worked in Nicaragua at approximately the same time, it focuses on pride of the physician, disenchantment with the Revolution during the programme and difficulty readjusting to Cuban society afterwards, life in exile, and their urge to set the story straight. It discusses addressing sensitive topics, the perceptions of the researcher as an insider or outsider, and how positions regarding their stories influence the oral history process and archive creation.
Author(s): Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla
Keywords: Cuban internationalism; Cuban doctors; medical missions; sensitive topics; insider/outsider perspectives

Constructing identities in a contested setting: Cuba's intellectual elite during and after the Revolution
This article explores the ways in which oral histories serve a process of constructing collective identities along the boundaries of what is politically possible. The article emerges from a study of the role of the intellectual in 1960s Cuba, using oral history interviews with protagonists of the revolutionary period. The article argues that the exploration of oral history material is a historically situated phenomenon that - in the case of highly politicised contexts - also needs to take into account the political limits of expression. Referring to the work of Pierre Bourdieu, the article argues that a theoretically framed reading of interview material may bring contextual meaning, and provide ways of understanding how roles and identities change over time.
Author(s): Kepa Artaraz
Keywords: Cuban oral history; intellectual elite; New Left; collective identity; publishing

The closure of the sugar mills narrated by the workers
In 2002, the Cuban government decided to close half the existing sugar mills in Cuba. Closures occur frequently in the history of the sugar industry and are usually associated with technological change. In this article, fragments of oral history interviews reveal several moments in the process, known as 'sugar restructuring'. In these interviews, former sugar workers refer among other issues to the impact that this event had on their lives. They also mention the scheme Estudio como trabajo (Study as Employment), which was created to encourage the re-qualification and relocation of those who were unemployed. These findings are based on two fieldwork studies carried out in the Cuban provinces of Matanzas and Artemisa between 2004 and 2015.
Author(s): Ana Vera Estrada
Keywords: sugar industry restructuring; sugar mill closures; Estudio como trabajo/Study as Employment; de-industrialisation in Cuba; sugar workers

'The epicentre of the crisis': gender roles and the division of labour in the private sphere during the Cuban Special Period, 1990-2005
During the economic crisis known as the 'Special Period' (1990-2005), extreme shortages and cuts to public services increased the domestic burden on Cuban women, a crisis thus described as a feminised one. This article examines how it affected gender roles and the division of labour in the private sphere by considering the oral history narratives of ordinary Cuban women alongside expert interviews and Cuban press sources. Identifying changes and continuities during the fifteen-year period, rather than focusing on one particular moment, makes an original contribution to this feminisation thesis. The article concludes that despite long-held traditional stereotypes and current perceptions of a lack of change, in practice nuanced changes to both gender roles and the traditional division of labour are visible in post-Soviet Cuba.
Author(s): Daliany Jeronimo Kersh
Keywords: Cuban women; Special Period; domestic labour; gender roles

Opening other closets: remembering as a transgender person and as a family member
This article, based on interviews with Cuban families, reflects how it felt to be a transgender person or family member of a transgender person in Cuba before and after the 1990s sexual revolution. Oral history is a valuable tool for revealing conflicts in the family in relation to gender and Cuban ideology from 1960-2015. Discussion of sex-gender identity was not a sensitive topic for the narrators. However, how the participants' stories about politics and historical state policies related to family and gender was extremely problematic and sensitive for them, and for me as a Cuban-born researcher. The article analyses how social changes create new spaces of expression and action for some of the participants within a socialist yet globalised context.
Author(s): Olga Lidia Saavedra Montes de Oca
Keywords: sensitive topics; Cuban sexual revolution; transgender people; family; emotions

Changing encounters with Chinese oral history
Author(s): Paul Thompson

Opening the tap: doing oral history in Cuba
Oral history work in Cuba has gone in cycles. A small and controlled surge in oral history and its sister fields testimony and anthropology occurred in the 1960s. This excitement was followed by three decades of relative quiet. Recently, spurred in part by the 2014 Cuban-US diplomatic thaw, oral history there has multiplied. This might be called a mini-boom and several articles in this Cuban special issue of Oral History are associated with this phase of activity. Others are by long-standing oral historians. Together, they provide useful methodological tools, demonstrating the role of oral history as a way to challenge who talks about the past, and for what purposes. As this issue goes to press, Cubans' uncertainty about the future is making itself felt in oral history interviews.
Author(s): Elizabeth Dore
Keywords: Cuban oral history; US-Cuban thaw; Chinese oral history; Fidel Castro

Escape to Miami: An Oral History of the Cuban Rafter Crisis
Author(s): Elizabeth Campisi

Memory, Subjectivities, and Representation: Approaches to Oral History in Latin America, Portugal, and Spain
Author(s): Rina Benmayor, MariĀ­a Eugenia Cardenal de la Nuez and Pilar Dominguez Prats (eds)

Migrant Women's Voices: Talking about Life and Work in the UK since 1945
Author(s): Linda McDowell

French Children Under the Allied Bombs, 1940-45: An Oral History
Author(s): Lindsey Dodd

Voices of Scottish Librarians: The Evolution of a Profession and its Response to Changing Times
Author(s): Ian MacDougall.