Re-Membering Together

“We know, in the case of the person, that whoever cannot tell himself the truth about his past is trapped in it, is immobilized in the prison of his undiscovered self. This is also true of nations… Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make freedom real.”
– James Baldwin, “The Creative Process”

“The personal is political”

“Dig into a dialect of your own design”
– Madlines the Lioness

“History cannot be held privately”
– Della Pollock, Remembering

“Now, anyone who has ever been compelled to think about it—anyone, for example, who has ever been in love—knows that the one face that one can never see is one’s own face. One’s lover—or one’s brother, or one’s enemy—sees the face you wear, and this face can elicit the most extraordinary reactions….the truth about us is always at variance with what we wish to be. The human effort is to bring these two realities into a relationship resembling reconciliation.”
– James Baldwin, “The Creative Process”


As Virginia and I discussed beginning “Broadly Speaking”, we began to wonder what might come out of doing oral histories with each other. We originally imagined it as a way to introduce ourselves to you, our readers. We also saw it as an opportunity to be reflexive. Oral history and ethnography are central to both of our professional and creative practices, but we are usually the interviewers. We felt it was important to understand that process from the interviewee perspective.

Participating in this process was incredible. It was unique because the two of us are very close friends and have been a part of each others lives for almost half of the time we have been alive. We have been essential to each other in our process of growing up and into ourselves. Interviewing and being interviewed by a close friend allowed our conversations to be open. The process also challenged us as interviewers and revealed new things about our relationship and ourselves. It heightened our sense of the distinction about what’s important to record. What conversations need to be captured? We were re-membering together – retelling stories that we both lived – but we were also learning new things about each other. Elements that shaped the other before we knew them, as well as things that we hadn’t known were happening, even though we were a part of each other’s lives at the time. What came out in the combined 4 hours of interviewing is a mosaic of the highly personal, the very analytic, the deeply insightful, and bouts of explosive laughter.

The process of re-listening to our own interviews and writing reflections was intense. Rarely do we have the opportunity to listen closely to ourselves. We had to relive and come to terms with not just our stories, but also the ways we tell those stories. And what that tells us about ourselves. We had a rare opportunity to see and listen to the “face” that we don’t often have to look at. In the process of attempting to answer our two straightforward questions – “What is important for readers to know about us?” and “What is it like to be interviewed?” – we had to dig into our personal nuances, complexities and shadows.

We decided to publish these in two parts, one reflecting on the experience of being interviewed and reflecting on short segments of our oral history interviews.

Thank you for remembering with us.

“The Doors I Carry With Me: Part 1 – Being Interviewed” by Virginia
“The Doors I Carry With Me: Part 2” by Virginia (coming soon!)

“Dig Deep, Stand Firm: Part 1 – Being Interviewed” by Alison
Dig Deep, Stand Firm: Part 2 ” by Alison

2 thoughts on “Re-Membering Together

  1. Pingback: Dig Deep, Stand Firm: Part 2 | Broadly Speaking

  2. Pingback: The Doors I Carry With Me: Part II | Broadly Speaking

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