All posts by Lindsey

Dr Lindsey Dodd is a Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Huddersfield in Yorkshire, Great Britain. Her main research themes are the history of childhood (particularly children in war), oral history and memory, and France during the Second World War. Lindsey's book 'French children under the Allied bombs, France 1940-1945: an oral history' was published by Manchester University Press in 2016 and uses three case studies (Brest, Boulogne-Billancourt and Lille) and the oral history narratives of around 40 French people to explore the experiences of children who survived the Allies' bombing campaign in France. It is available here: She has an MA in Life History Research: Oral History and Mass Observation from the University of Sussex (2001) and a PhD in French History from the University of Reading (2011).

Seeking points of articulation in a cross-case synthesis

By Lindsey Dodd / / @DrLindseyD

One of the core research activities of the Disrupted Histories, Recovered Pasts project is the ‘open-ended process of co-production, cross-case learning and synthesis’ envisaged by our initial proposal and outlined in further detail in our first Working Paper. In June 2017, the project team met in Paris to think through this ‘systematic cross-case engagement’, sharing the commonalities and differences across our case studies, and moving towards our goal of identifying the ‘themes, patterns and theoretical modifications’ that might arise through laying alongside each other case studies examining similarly disrupted historical experiences.

Prior to our meeting, we each performed two tasks. The first we called ‘Sharing what we know’. In order to get a stronger sense of how each of the five project team members approaches her work, we decided to share with each other 1) something we had written which relates to the current project (published or unpublished), and 2) something from inside our own disciplinary world which inspired us and which we thought would interest the others. The writing of our own which we shared was the following:

• Baussant, M., ‘Broken lives, silenced memories: reappropriations of the past among the Jews of Egypt and Islamic Countries [unpublished]
• Dodd, L. ‘Turning historian to tell your traumatic past; or, how oral history speaks both from below and from the inside out’ (seminar paper given at the University of Huddersfield, April 2017; will appear soon as Working Papers in the Disrupted Histories, Recovered Pasts series).
• Otele, O., ‘Mourning in reluctant sites of memory: from Afrophobia to cultural productivity’, NIOD Lecture Series, September 2016, Institute for War, NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam, Netherlands
• Dos Santos, I., ‘Migrer du Portugal en Angola: perception de la migration et rapport au passé colonial. Quelques pistes de reflexion’, Cahiers de l’URMIS (2017)
• Sullivan, S., ‘What’s ontology got to do with it? On nature and knowledge in a political ecology of the “green economy”’, Journal of Political Ecology, 24.1 (2017)

The items by others which we shared were:
• Bhambra, G. K., ‘What shadows? Representing Enoch Powell’, (28 October, 2016)
• Basso, K. H., Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache (University of New Mexico Press, 1996), Chapter 1, ‘Quoting the Ancestors’.
• Fassin, D, ‘Une vérité sans réconciliation. Mémoire et histoire du Sida dans le post-apartheid’, Sociétés & Répresentations, 2.22 (2006)
• Machaqueiro, M. A., ‘Spaces of memory: the construction of colonial and post-colonial spaces in the memories of former Portuguese colonizers’, CRIA-FCSH Working Paper 10 (2011)
• Roper, M., ‘The unconscious work of history’, Cultural and Social History, 11.2 (2014)

We called the second task ‘Finding points of articulation’. Here, we considered three focused questions, the answers we hoped would lead us towards finding the points at which various of our case studies shared hinges, flexing in different directions but articulating across the same joint. The questions were:

1. How might we describe our research method(s), e.g. our methods of collecting recorded interview material, or of listening to (already recorded) material?
2. In what ways might we ‘classify’ the type(s) of oral history information we are working with and/or generating in our research? (For example – childhood memories, intergenerational, on-site/in-place, etc.) – i.e. one point of articulation might be to be quite precise about

Visual cross-case analysis of types of memory

a ‘typology‘ or ‘taxonomy‘ of interview/recorded materials we are working with.
3. In what ways do our oral history materials disrupt, reflect, revise, refract or recover established historical ‘truths’ regarding the contexts of our case research?

I’ve written about some of my own reflections on these questions prior to the meeting.

Continue reading Seeking points of articulation in a cross-case synthesis

Reflections on research method and cross-case synthesis

‘Les Trois Ages’ by Gonzalo Borondo – To silence, to blind; to listen, to see: to whom does the past belong?
[mural, Paris, June 2017]
By Lindsey Dodd / / @DrLindseyD

On the final evening of our project meeting in Paris in June 2017, Sian Sullivan and I dined on the terrace of a small backstreet restaurant. The mural ‘Les Trois Ages’ by Gonzalo Borondo, pictured above, loomed over us as we ate. We were struck powerfully by its message, speaking to us, as it did, of the many ideas which  preoccupied our discussions: the silencing of experience and memory, transferred across generations. How aptly the mural seemed to encapsulate the concerns of our project overall and the specific  conversations we had been sharing while seeking to synthesise experiences and findings across our five case research contexts.

How had we set about starting to build our synthesis? For although our case studies intersect in various ways, we wanted to bring them more directly in touch with each other. So in advance of our project meeting, we had devised a set of questions to inform our discussions together. The results of our group discussions are available here.

Being called upon to consider the responses to these questions in concrete ways helped me to develop and clarify certain ways of thinking around my own practice. It is my own reflections on this experience that I share in this blog. While the bulk of what follows was written prior to our project group meeting in Paris in 2017, I have added certain reflections based on my interviewing in the summer of 2017. More on that interview trip can be found here.

The questions we each considered were:

  • How might we describe our research method(s), e.g. our methods of collecting recorded interview material, or of listening to (already recorded) material?
  • In what ways might we ‘classify‘ the type(s) of oral history information you are working with and/or generating in our research? (for example – childhood memories, intergenerational, on-site/in-place, etc) – i.e. one point of articulation might be to be quite precise about a ‘typology‘ or ‘taxonomy‘ of interview/recorded materials we are working with.
  • In what ways do our oral history materials disrupt, reflect, refract or recover established historical ‘truths’ regarding the contexts of our case research?

Some of my reflections on these questions are below. Continue reading Reflections on research method and cross-case synthesis

Interviewing in the Creuse

By Lindsey Dodd / / @DrLindseyD

In May and June 2017, a number of local newspapers in central France carried a story about my research, under the headline ‘Thousands of children evacuated to the Creuse away from the bombs between 1942 and 1945.’ The articles, illustrated with photographs from the Archives municipales de Boulogne-Billancourt showing excited children leaving on trains from Paris, commented ‘a British historian is looking for the former ‘little refugees’ and members of families who welcomed them’.

The response was nothing like an avalanche, and indeed, I had not expected one, but slowly emails started arriving, a few phone calls and a letter.

Research base for 10 days: Guéret, Creuse

At first I was struck by the number of people who were simply pleased to get in touch to tell me of a family member – now deceased – who had gone through this experience. They were not people to interview, not having much more than scraps of information, but they thought it worth contacting me nevertheless. Then I received a few written accounts, some photographs and several email exchanges. But I was also contacted by several of the petits réfugiés themselves, now sprightly octogenarians looking forward to sharing their experiences with me when I visited the Creuse in 2017. My appeal also reached individuals resident in Paris and elsewhere – a newspaper spotted by a friend or neighbour, passed on and passed on again, resulting in several interviewees whom I would meet on other visits to Paris.

Having the possibility only of ten days in the Creuse in July, the opportunities were limited to who was available and when. Over the course of that trip, I visited the Archives départementales de la Creuse twice to examine the fiches d’évacuation (evacuation forms) of various evacuee children. I also interviewed fifteen people, comprising child evacuees, children from host families, other local children who got to know the evacuees, child refugees (not part of the evacuation convoys, but who fled to this region for safety and better living conditions), as well as a couple of close family members of a deceased former evacuee. Along with four interviews collected in Paris (two child evacuees, a Jewish child refugee and a teacher who accompanied the evacuees),  and another interview I have been given, I now have a small corpus of twenty interviews dealing with child displacement from the Paris region (mostly) to the Creuse (mostly). More than one of the interviewees had written memoirs or even semi-fictionalised accounts of their experiences; many had photographs and other documentation which they shared with me.

Dodd on the road near Bourganeuf

Apart from the enormous generosity of all of those who agreed to meet with me and talk about such personal expereinces, the trip, under the beautiful Limousin sun, inspired the following reflections: Continue reading Interviewing in the Creuse

Children’s disrupted wartime lives – recovered in the archives

Lindsey DoddBy Lindsey Dodd

During October and November 2016 I travelled around France, collecting historical source material about children’s lives in France during the Second World War. The source material is quite unusual: I have been seeking out and listening to filmed and audio oral history-type interviews with older French people about their wartime childhoods which have been collected by or recorded by various archives over the past 30 years.

In the summer, I wrote to around 150 French archives and institutions in order to try to locate the kind of material I needed. On the basis of the responses I received, I planned two trips which made geographical sense and took account of the quantity of material each archive claimed to have. The first trip was based in the Paris region, the second took in the eastern part of the country.

I have been able to collect a wide range of stories and experiences of wartime childhoods. I visited eight archives, took buses, planes, metros and trains, slept in innumerable beds, got drenched in the rain, ate sandwiches on park benches, and transcribed 150,000 words of interview material. I’ve listened to the stories of 70 people who were children during the war; I have another 35 remaining to work on, plus 35 oral histories I recorded myself for another project, which are ripe for re-use. Placed alongside a number of unpublished written accounts and memoirs, I can pull together a corpus of over 150 people for my study.

Archives municipales de Beaune
Archives municipales de Beaune

The people range in age from one Thérèse born in 1926 to another Thérèse born in 1941. The interviewees were children of factory workers, factory owners, level crossing guards, mechanics, farmers, teachers, accountants, among other things, born into middling or poorer families, in cities, towns and villages from Paris to Sète, Brittany to Bresse. Some of their parents were in the resistance. Some of their parents were deported. Some were tortured. Some were killed. Some of their parents did sneaky things like hiding wine barrels in the funeral hearse, most bartering produce in order to survive – but none claimed their parents collaborated or worked the black market. Continue reading Children’s disrupted wartime lives – recovered in the archives