94. Preserving Oral Histories w/ Professor Lilit Keshishyan

Dan welcomes USC Writing Program instructor Professor Lilit Keshishyan to discuss the power of oral histories, her work with My Armenian Story at The Institute of Armenian Studies. She speaks about the impact of The Armenian Genocide & Diaspora, sheds light on what happened to Armenians during WWII, and so much more. This is such a deep episode and a great start to Writing Remix in 2023. Read and download the full transcript of this episode at the bottom of this post.

Lilit Keshishyan is the director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies “California History through the Armenian Experience” oral history project and also works on various aspects of the Institute’s Digital Diaspora Initiative. She is a part-time lecturer in The Writing Program at USC. Lilit holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from UCLA, where she taught comparative literature and writing courses for over 10 years. Her academic work has explored the intricacies and challenges posed by issues of identity, language, and place in the literature of the Armenian diaspora.  Contact Lilit to come and speak: lkeshish@usc.edu

Link to oral history projects: https://armenian.usc.edu/oral-history-and-digitization/

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“The oral story includes emotions, memories, personal relationships, the focus on one person at that moment and how they’re seeing the world around them […] it brings the human element to the historical record.”
–Lilit Keshishyan

“The whole point is that you are important for the [Armenian] community, right? Your story is important. All you know, how you got here, where you came from, your experiences, they’re important.” –Lilit Keshishyan

“I think it’s a really emotionally potentially daunting task to interview someone.”
–Lilit Keshishyan

“I’ve interviewed someone for four hours one day, and then two weeks later, another four hours.  […] there’s a lot of details that come out and people want to share. Most people want to share. And the more they share the more questions arise, and answers.”
–Lilit Keshishyan

“Some people I ask if they’d like to share a song that they learned when they were a child, or a poem. Those always get to me.”
–Lilit Keshishyan

“I think what’s changed maybe in my teaching, or not changed, but a little bit more pronounced is my focus on questions and the importance of questions.”
–Lilit Keshishyan

Episode 93 Transcript

This episode was recorded on April 21, 2022. The theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can follow the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher, join the newsletter for a bunch of extras (a Note From Dan, episode-specific writing prompts, and book recommendations, & follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod & Instagram @WritingRemixPod.

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