The Role of Oral History in Surviving a Eugenic Past

In Steven High (ed.), Beyond Testimony and Trauma: Oral History in the Aftermath of Mass Violence. pp. 119-138 (2015)
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Despite the fact that the history of eugenics in Canada is necessarily part of the larger history of eugenics, there is a special role for oral history to play in the telling of this story, a role that promises to shift us from the muddled middle of the story. Not only has the testimony of eugenics survivors already played perhaps the most important role in revealing much about the practice of eugenics in Canada, but the willingness and ability of survivors to share their own oral histories makes the situation in western Canada almost unique. Conversely, I also discuss the role that oral history plays in “surviving a eugenic past”, trading on the ambiguity of this phrase to reflect both on the survivorship of those who have been viewed as subhuman via some kind of eugenic lens and on the collective legacy with which Canada’s eugenic past presents us.
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