Category Archives: UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Historian’s Eye Archive

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Pedagogy Photography Oral Histories
 

About UC Berkeley Historian's Eye

The Historian’s Eye team at UC Berkeley is a collective of American Studies undergraduate seniors, recent graduates, and our faculty advisor and collaborator, Professor Michael Cohen. We spent the Spring of 2012 working together to produce a digital archive of photographs, oral histories, and associated curriculum focused on the first six months of the Occupy movement in the San Francisco Bay area. The Berkeley project was first conceived by Historian’s Eye founder Matthew Frye Jacobson in response to the enormous upsurge of energy, attention, participation and violence in the West Coast Occupations, especially Oakland and at Berkeley, in October and November, 2011. This led to a broad collaboration with American Studies undergraduates at UC Berkeley. The objectives were balanced between project and process, and were meant to be as conversational, methodologically experimental, and productively horizontal as the Occupy movement itself was in those first few months. This team expanded to include eight people: UC Berkeley Professor Michael Cohen, and American Studies undergraduates Robert Lee, Patrick McGrath, Alaska Quilici, Jennifer Rubiello, Samantha Silver, Jacqueline Hughes Simon, and Elena Wagoner. Individual working groups were assembled to concentrate on the four leading aspects of the project: photos, oral histories, educational outreach, and our process blog. These groups each had core teams and editorial oversight, but they remained fluid so that we all moved between different elements to contribute variously to each part. The whole team met at least once a week to work through technical, curatorial, and theoretical issues, and remained grounded in the spirit and forms of Historian’s Eye as our primary, guiding text for production and conversation. We looked to the site and deeply into our own processes for what it means to document the contemporary moment; how to represent the political present; how history is made and accessed; and which pieces of our otherwise mundane, vernacular experience might resonate for later historians, and why. The answers to many of these questions didn’t always come in the classroom; rather, they came in the field as we were conducting our first Oral Histories, or as we were poring over thousands of photographs to distill which few hundred were “the right ones”, or as we were collaborating on an assignment that would compel other students to participate and “make history”. Once we started producing as documentarians, the answers were simple but perhaps inexplicable: Occupy had impacted all of us, and when we slowed down, started to record what we were seeing and hearing, and witnessed the present through the “Historian’s Eye”, we couldn’t turn it off. Suddenly, we were compelled to observe the makings of history every day, and see it as our right and our mission to capture it, save it, and share it. While we remained focused on the quality of the content we present here, we were also committed to a Gonzo learn-by-doing process that honed our interpretive skills, critical eye, and sensory perception of the moments that matter. We have produced a collection of photographs and oral histories that is by no means the complete story of Occupy the Bay, but we hope the spaces between will compel you as well as our own team to fill in the gaps with more stories and photos, and that this project serves as an open invitation to continue uncovering the history in our midst. We kept a blog about our process along the way, and invite you to read it and get to know us at http://calhisteye.wordpress.com/

UC Berkeley Historian's Eye Oral Histories

Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Ramon Quintero, Activist and UC Berkeley Graduate Interviewed by Professor Michael Cohen in Cohen’s office at UC Berkeley, May 2, 2012. 01:17:20 “Why do I, a student that comes to the best public university in the world, have to live in a motor home?”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Alex Poska, Activist and Organizer Interviewed by Elena Wagoner at Elena’s Berkeley Apartment, April 4, 2012 1:00:48 “That what the tactic of occupation is essentially asking you to do and wanting you to do is repurpose space and reclaim space, so if we are going to be in Occupy, let’s actually occupy, because that’s how we can change it from the ground up and subvert the current governmental system or maybe get the current governmental system to adapt to what we’re doing because it’s better.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Anonymous UC Berkeley Alumnus and Activist Interviewed by Jennifer Rubiello in Oakland, April 18, 2012. 00:31:13 “It was beautiful. We created a sort of commune in the middle of Downtown Oakland, in the middle of the most affluent area of the Oakland flatlands. It freaked out a lot of people, inspired a lot of people...”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Alicia Littletree Bales, UC Berkeley Undergraduate Interviewed by Elena Wagoner at UC Berkeley, April 9, 2012 00:07:00 “I’ve gone on marches and really not known where to go or what to do when I got there... it was so great when we arrived, we were welcomed in... and we sat for a while and sort of watched people in the little amphitheater and then we sort of walked around to see it but then we went to lunch... I just wasn’t sure where or how to plug in.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Kheirya Shrooh, Owner and worker at Plaza Cafe, Oakland. Interviewed by Jacqueline Hughes Simon & Samantha Silver at Plaza Cafe, in Frank Ogawa/ Oscar Grant Plaza, Oakland, CA, March 26, 2012. 00:00:45 “It was very slow. At the beginning, they had their own kitchens.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Nohemi, worker at the Juice Joint, Oakland Interviewed by Jacqueline Hughes Simon & Samantha Silver at the Juice Joint in Frank Ogawa/ Oscar Grant Plaza, Oakland, CA, March 26, 2012 00:00:31 “A lot of the customers don’t want to be close to the protesting people.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Laleh Behbehanian, Activist, Organizer, and UC Berkeley Graduate Student Interviewed by Jacqueline Hughes Simon & Patrick McGrath at Jacqueline’s Berkeley home, April 30, 2012. 00:28:21 “As soon as a movement starts to have any strong impact, undoubtedly, there’s gonna be forms of repression. I think that Oakland was one of the places that showed that repression [...] showed it most brutally.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Govinda Wind-Thunder, Activist, Occupy Protester, and Worker Interviewed by Alaska Quilici at Alaska’s Berkeley apartment, March 29, 2012. 01:37:16 “You realize you’re not getting released, it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. I was just sitting in jail, hoping that someone noticed I was missing, hoping they would put two and two together, hoping they would save my pets’ lives. The entire time [29 days], I was in solitary confinement, the officers wouldn’t speak to you when they passed you the food. It goes by so fucking slow.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Fasil Lema, Owner of De Lauer’s Newsstand Jacqueline Hughes Simon & Samantha Silver at De Lauer’s Books, across the street from Frank Ogawa/ Oscar Grant Plaza, Oakland, CA, March 26, 2012. 00:00:43 “The protesters, you know, they are angry about the American life.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Shane Boyle, Student, Activist, and Occupy Protester Interviewed by Elena Wagoner at UC Berkeley, April 11, 2012. 00:43:39 “Then they started pushing us into a smaller and smaller corner, a few hundred of us, and then were ordering us to disperse and not letting us disperse. Beating people back that were trying to leave. It wasn’t that much fun and then we ended up getting carted off to jail, all 400 of us. ”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Phil Tagami, Oakland Business Owner and Oakland Booster Interviewed by Jacqueline Hughes Simon & Samantha Silver in Tagami’s office in the Rotunda Building in Frank Ogawa/ Oscar Grant Plaza, Oakland, CA, March 26, 2012. 01:03:43 “As a community, we would never want to diminish or impinge on anyone’s freedom of speech, or their right to assemble, and we want to promote that understanding. Now the question is: at what juncture is someone in pursuit of those rights impinging on the rights of others?” The following San Francisco Chronicle article details one of Tagami’s dramatic confrontations with protestors, which he alludes to in our interview: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/11/03/BACM1LQ5FU.DTL
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Reverend Dr. Harold R. Mayberry, Pastor Interviewed by Jacqueline Hughes Simon & Alaska Quilici at First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Oakland, CA, February 21, 2012. 00:40:07 “The faith leaders [of Occupy the Dream] are involved because every significant change in the life of this country over the past 50 or so years has had the involvement of the black church in it [ so...] the faith community as a whole became involved. [...] If Occupy is really serious about changing the direction of this country, we have to even hold President Obama’s feet to the fire.” www.occupythedream.org
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Antal Polony, Writer, Activist, Organizer of Occupy Brooms Interviewed by Patrick McGrath at McGrath’s Oakland apartment, April 14, 2012 00:33:02 “Occupy should be affecting the political system [...] It would say something about our political system if it wasn’t. Especially here in Oakland, where it’s still so virulent.” “Brooms is a good service, a way to show community solidarity. [...] How much help Oakland needs, and how much Oakland can help itself.” http://antalpolony.com/
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Brenda Hillman, Professor, Poet, and Activist Interviewed by Jacqueline Hughes Simon at Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, May 8, 2012 00:32:27 “Poetry belongs in resistance movements is my utter, absolute feeling. [...] Poetry and all forms of art belong with political resistance, belong with places where societal change is going to occur for the better...” Read Robert Hass (Brenda’s husband)'s op-ed for the New York Times, including his account of the violence he and Brenda experienced at UC Berkeley on November 9, 2011 here. To read Brenda’s poetry, including work from her most recent volume, Practical Water, please visit http://www.eveningwillcome.com/issue14-bhillman-p1.html
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Honest Chung, UC Berkeley Undergraduate and Occupy Protester Interviewed by Jennifer Rubiello at Doe Library, Berkeley, CA, April 13, 2012. 00:52:14 “Two police officers, after they saw me being dragged away [...] they had the audacity to come up to me [...] and then asked me if I needed an ambulance, and at the time all I could think was ‘This is really strange, right? Cus literally they’re ten feet away beating people up...’.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Shannon Gedo, UC Berkeley Undergraduate Interviewed by Jennifer Rubiello on Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley, April 9, 2012. 00:00:43 “It was really interesting to see the community of people that were all fighting for the same movement...”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Aly Maun, UC Berkeley Undergraduate Interviewed by Jennifer Rubiello at UC Berkeley, April 15, 2012 00:19:24 “Sorority sisters came out on the big events [...but] as far as the consistent general assemblies go, I was the only Greek person. It is a place, a community, at Berkeley at least, where you face a little more opposition to the ideas. [...] It’s a lot of apathy and indifference to the issues.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Sam, UC Berkeley Undergraduate Interviewed by Jacqueline Hughes Simon & Jennifer Rubiello on Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley, April 9, 2012. 00:02:05 “We’ve seen the impact of the superficial investment in what is a deeply important cause...”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Anonymous Cal Graduate Student Interviewed by Elena Wagoner at International House, Berkeley, April 5, 2012 00:08:35 “I think that the financial crisis, if that was what Occupy was protesting against, was an amalgamation of a lot of institutional and also sort of a critical mass that came together as a result of a chain of events that can’t really be pinpointed to a single organization or entity. [...] So for people to blame bankers because its easy is just a little misinformed.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Anthony Thomas, UC Berkeley Student Interviewed by Jennifer Rubiello at International House, Berkeley, April 5, 2012 00:03:41 “I’d say in very broad terms I identify with the overall sentiment that class inequality and unequal distribution of wealth is a problem in the United States but I think the movement as a whole is very myopic, misguided and it’s been hijacked by people who have the luxury of protest and I don’t think it represents the true issues that are behind maldistribution of wealth and I don’t think it represents the people who suffer from it.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Paulina Inzerillo, Activist and Organizer Interviewed by Elena Wagoner at UC Berkeley, April 5, 2012. 00:05:33 “Any time you are creating a movement your goal is to really mobilize the masses and the voices of the masses and that means even those who are against what it is you are fighting for but shedding light on the issue and having conversation with them about what is going on can actually, in a lot of ways, have them create a different perspective versus what they initially thought.”
 
Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player Effie Rawlings and Krystof Lopaur, Occupy Organizers Interviewed by Samantha Silver at the occupied Gill Tract Farm in Albany, CA, May 4, 2012 00:53:17 “Occupy really took off when it abandoned this concept of demands and stopped trying to be the same as every other failed protest movement over the last two decades. And simultaneously, as they abandoned those demands, that’s when people were like, “Let’s just do this everywhere.” “We want to do it now, while we have all this passion, idealism, and vision [...]. It would have to be something really righteous, like some land that was in danger or threatened [...] and on our way back, we passed the Gill Tract.”

UC Berkeley Historian’s Eye Pedagogy

These materials were prepared for Professor Cohen’s Introduction to American Studies course at UC Berkeley. The course, subtitled "Culture Wars" is a survey of post-Civil War US history centering on how culture serves as a critical site of conflict, power and dissent. Throughout the semester, students are asked to write papers in which they perform close readings of cultural documents they find in the past (photographs, poems, essays, films, short stories, paintings, songs, performances), asking how such documents are waging the culture war and whose side they seem to be on.

About our Educational Project:

As part of our effort to capture many voices and new perspectives, we asked students to take their own photographs, use Flickr, and participate in the uploading of history. The digital humanities is about access and participation, and our assignment asks students to participate in documenting the present moment. Our work on Historian’s Eye is not simply archival, but was designed and compiled with an educational mission in mind. We not only wish to provide a body of images and voices that give a specific historical context to the current economic crisis and Occupy movement here in California, but to use these texts to teach students how to interpret and make historical meaning out of the culture and politics that surrounds them. We collectively wrote and presented a lecture in front of Professor Cohen’s Intro to American Studies course and wrote an assignment drawing from the site’s resources and inspiration. Our assignment uses the historical techniques of reading for context, interrogating meanings, and discerning cultural form used in the previous assignments, while bringing the digital humanities into the classroom. Our course work asks students to realize how vivid and alive the vernacular, unrepresented, and seemingly mundane world can be. History surrounds us in the built environment, in our embedded assumptions about power, value and knowledge, and in the ceaseless change that all of us are caught up in each and every day; not just on those dates future history students will be asked to memorize. Men and women create their own history, but not according to conditions of their own choosing: this basic premise of historical materialism remains the animating notion of this course, our project, Cultural Studies in general, and these websites, and by developing upon these approaches to the digital humanities, we believe that we have all come to a deeper understanding of what it means to look at the present with the Historian’s Eye.

Assignment: Historianʼs Eye on the Present

What does it mean to document the current moment? How do we do a Cultural Studies of the Present? The Historianʼs Eye website, built by Yale American Studies Professor Matthew Jacobson, takes on these questions through a collection of photographs and oral histories beginning with Obamaʼs election in 2008 and the ongoing financial crisis. Together, these texts ask us to think about the current moment as historical. Write a 3 page paper choosing ONE of the options below: Option 1:  Take a photo that documents some aspect of the economic crisis and consider the photograph in space and time. Where did you take your picture? Why did you take this photo? Now back up and treat the photograph as a cultural document and read your own photo as a representation of the present moment. How does it represent contemporary issues in American Studies? Upload your photo to Flickr.com. To Upload to Flickr:
• Go to www.flickr.com and sign in or sign up for a new account • Click on the Upload tab and upload your photo to your own Flickr account. • Once your photo is uploaded, go to our AS10 Historianʼs Eye Flickr Group website at: http://www.flickr.com/groups/as10historianseye/ • Add your photo to the “Group Pool” on our AS10 Historianʼs Eye Flickr Group. Enter a description of the photo with your name.

Option 2:

Find a photo on the Historianʼs Eye website that speaks to you and discuss how and why the photo is emblematic of the economic crisis. In developing your argument, consider some of the following questions: Why did you choose this photo? What is being represented in the photo, and how is it being represented? What connections are being made in this photo across geographical lines? (Egypt, Oakland, New York). Are there any historical connections being made? Whatʼs at stake in making those spatial and historical connections?

Lecture

Listen to a lecture by the UC Berkeley Historian's Eye Education Team about Historian's Eye and how to use the site to think historically and critically about the present. Student Essays Here are a few exemplary essays written for this assignment by UC Berkeley students.
Grace Beaudoin, "Reflective Economics" • Kaela Connors, "History by Those Who Live It" • ‎‎Lauren Reeley Guzman, "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For... Happiness?" • Jackson Hille, "Lost Hope" • Julian Lee, "The Homeless" • Bryan Wilson, "Tepees, Solar Panels and Vineyards: Constructing a Discourse of Consumer Environmentalism in an Economic Crisis"