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Ethnography meets History: The Personal Interview as a "Doing World History" Pedagogy, with Four Model Student Papers

Howard Spodek

     How to enable students to understand and feel that what they are studying through formal historical materials is a record of real experience lived by real people? How to make the events of the past come alive? These are central questions in the pedagogy of historians.

     One bridge between disciplined study and lived experience has always been ethnography, or, put more simply, interviews of older relatives and friends concerning their experiences with key events and movements in recent world history. In more formal study, such interviews become the stuff of oral history.1 Could we use the tools of oral history to help students understand history, the lives of (older) people around them, and themselves, albeit in less formal, less structured, and less intense practice? If students could learn – and master – the art of the interview they could establish closer relationships with family and friends, understand world history through the immediacy of personal accounts, and learn skills of conversation and inquiry that could enrich their lives. These were my challenges and my aspirations as I undertook planning for a new, experimental course in recent world history.

     I assumed that other teachers – university or high school – must have had experience with this interview-based format. To assess, and benefit from, the range of experiences, I convened a roundtable at the World History Association annual meeting last year (2013) in Minneapolis. Somewhat to my surprise, I found only a few teachers, at any level, who had much experience with this interview method. I received some good advice, but no full templates that could inform my needs for a workable course structure.2

     At Temple University, my home base, I sought a place in the curriculum that would allow the necessary experimentation. The history department had a slot, but not exactly what I had anticipated. We require a mid-level writing course in one of three regions: American, European, or Africa-Asia-Latin American. I asked to teach the third. (My own specialization is in modern India.) This intensive writing course yielded a small, seven student, class of generally alert and interested students, with wide latitude for experimentation.

     On the other hand, this geographical mandate meant that (most) students could not simply interview elderly friends and relatives; they needed elderly immigrants who had come to America from areas that were, for most of the students, remote. Ironically, instead of forming closer relationships with their own family members and friends, they would be encountering strangers from the four corners of the earth. Each student would have to conduct three interviews during the semester, and while some would choose to stay with the same informant throughout, others would want to change. We might need as many as twenty-one interviewees.

     The search began on day one of the course. (Optimally, I would have been working on the problem before the semester began, but I had been in India carrying out research.) Several students found at least one interviewee on their own: Vince had a part-time job where he worked with a Mexican immigrant who was happy to talk with him. Dave worked with a Liberian, and chose to stay with him for all three interviews. Nick frequently ate at a nearby Chinese restaurant and interviewed the owner and his wife. Owen knew a Bangladeshi from his neighborhood. The Life-Long Learning Center at Temple put me in touch with the Nationalities Services Center, which hosts elderly immigrants, mostly from Vietnam and China; the staff of the Center graciously facilitated a number of interviews, even providing translators when necessary. I called in many chits from among my friends and acquaintances. By the end of the semester, the students had interviewed: a Bangladeshi, a Guatemalan, an Indonesian, a Liberian, a Mexican, a Palestinian, a Tibetan, a Turk, two Chinese, three Vietnamese, and four Indians. All but one were immigrants; Vince had a family friend in Gurgaon, an affluent suburb of Delhi, and interviewed him via skype. The interviewees were a mixture of males and females and in two cases the interview included a husband and wife together.

     The students had to read background materials and prepare lists of general questions – but not fixed questionnaires – for each interview; conduct the interview; read supplementary materials to place it in context; write it up in that context; pair off and cross-read and edit each others' essays at least once during the semester; take account of my editorial suggestions as well; and revise at least once. At first, I expected that four interviews for each student would be possible and appropriate. Later I reduced that to three. Three of these exercises would be about right for our fourteen-week semester.

     We needed two sets of readings, one as general preparation before the interviews, one as specific contextual material afterward. Lacking advance knowledge of who the interviewees would be, we needed preliminary readings that would give insights into major trends in world history from about the middle of the twentieth century till today. I chose as a text James Overfield's Sources of Global History since 1900,3 a selection of primary sources. This selection, I thought, would provide most of the necessary background for the three topics of the interviews.

     The first round of interviews would deal with political issues of revolution and war. Primary sources from, for example, Che Guevara, Mahatma Gandhi, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, the genocide in Rwanda, and CIA activities in Chile would help provide points of reference that would enable students to ask questions about interviewees' personal experience across a wide range of issues.

     The second round of interviews would deal with economic issues. Here, readings such as those from Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in China, Jawaharlal Nehru in India, Akio Morita in Japan, and World Development Indicators from the World Bank – plus some supplementary materials of my own4 and documentary film materials from WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing)5 that I provided on the functioning of informal sectors in the economy, a special interest of mine – would serve the purpose.

     The third round would inquire into change in gender identities and religious organizations. Here, readings included Mao; advocates of Catholic Liberation Theology; the Ayatollah Khomeini; an Indian journalist on Hindu nationalism; plus feminist perspectives on the Islamic revolution in Iran, female circumcision (genital mutilation) in several African countries, and the dowry system in India. At first I suggested that students pursue either the religious issues or the gender issues, but frequently the two were intertwined.

     For each round of interviews, each student was to draft a list of twenty-five questions, based on the readings, which would form a framework for the interview. The questions were not to be employed as a systematic questionnaire, but as a background from which to formulate questions during the more spontaneous interchange of the interview itself. In class we went over the list of questions of each student. Members of the class, and I, evaluated the students' questions, making suggestions on how more general questions might be made more specific and more specific questions might be made more general, as the actual interview unfolded.

     The interview questions were to be put in personal terms; not "What experience did your country have with guerrilla war?" but rather, "In what ways did guerrilla warfare touch you and your family and friends?"; not "How did gender relations change in your religion and country?" but rather, "How did gender relations change in your family and among your friends?" The interview was not to provide general information, which could be found in books and online, but rather personal information that would illuminate and "bring home" the more general trends and movements about which the students had been reading – and would read more.

     With their questions formulated, the students began the first round of interviews. Two of the students were generally comfortable; they were interviewing co-workers, although both said that they had never before inquired into the lives of their colleagues prior to their migration to America. The others were more apprehensive. They were encountering complete strangers, selected for them either by administrators at the Nationalities Service Center, or by me from among my friends. I tried to convey to the students just how much I had learned through the years through hundreds, thousands, of interviews, conversations, just like these. I told them they were beginning a form of inquiry that would enrich the rest of their lives. I suggested that they might think of the interviews as "blind dates"; hopefully they would work out well, but if not, well, not all blind dates work out well. They do provide a learning experiences.6

     In the event, most of the first interviews worked out very well. The two work colleagues told stories of life in Liberia and Mexico – and of their experiences with American immigration officials – that astonished the students. A Palestinian told of using non-violent methods in protesting Israeli occupation. A Guatemalan told of his advocacy for human rights, first in Guatemala and then in the United States. The three interviews at the Nationalities Service Center were somewhat more problematic, as the gap between interviewer and interviewee was the greatest in age and experience and a translator was often necessary. Nevertheless, the setting in a senior center, with comfortable spaces, available coffee, tea, and snacks, and supportive staff was conducive to conversations with people who had lived through civil war and revolution. The students loosened up; so did I. This became evident as students brought the accounts of their interviews back to our classroom.

     Then came the background research. How representative were the reports gleaned in interviewing? How did the interviews compare with information in written sources? Did they add a new dimension, infuse them with life, contradict them? Were the interviewees credible? If the interview seemed to contradict the written sources, could the students explain the discrepancy? In some classes that require student interviews, I learned, the interview was the principal product; here it was not; here the interview had to be put into context. Students were being trained in the methods of historians. They were to ask further questions about the personal accounts, for example:

     How well did personal accounts of suppression of free speech fit in with the general record on human rights in Guatemala in the 1980s; personal accounts of American neo-colonialism in the rubber industry of Liberia since World War II fit in with the general economic record of that country and of American intervention; personal accounts of earning a living on the black market in Vietnam fit in with the general record of economic life during wartime in that divided country; personal accounts of a Chinese father dispatching his daughters to study in American colleges fit in with the general reports of women's status in China – and America?

     On the other hand, this was not a research seminar in which students were to thoroughly investigate a topic through original sources. Rather they were to learn enough to contextualize their interviews and make sense of them in a larger picture. The class was to provide, in part, a model for future inquiry and learning.

     All students submitted their papers online through the discussion board function of blackboard, and in class we went through each of the first papers carefully, with all students, and me, offering comments on both content and style. We discussed alternative ways of understanding interviews, structuring reports, and crafting essays. We investigated the creative processes involved. And then students rewrote, always at least one additional draft, often more. (This was formally a "writing-intensive" course.)

     The second and third rounds repeated this process. The students were much more relaxed as they engaged in preparing, interviewing, reporting, writing, and editing. For the second paper, they also paired off and critiqued and edited one another's papers. By this time the students had come to know each other well and seemed comfortable with this requirement. (I intended to require this student-editing for the third paper as well, but ran out of time.) Because each student read all the papers at least cursorily, and in some cases quite intensively, they learned about experiences with major movements in world history not only through the eyes of the people that they themselves interviewed, but also through the eyes of the interviewees of their classmates'. They also improved their techniques of preparing questions, interviewing, and writing. They learned from one another, and almost all students began to recognize and to aspire to the standards of the best.

     On bad days in the classroom, I feared that the course was not adequately focused; on good days, I rejoiced in the hope (and significant evidence) that many (of the seven) students were being transformed intellectually, and perhaps personally, by the processes of this course. They began to recognize clearly that the background of their informants conditioned their experience of historical events. For example: Catholics and Buddhists experienced the Vietnam war quite differently; the fight for human rights looked different in Guatemala and the USA; attempts at rural self-sufficiency looked different in the Chinese countryside at the time they were being implemented than they did to a Chinese immigrant entrepreneur in the USA twenty years later.

     More important the students began to find new contexts through which to understand world history, contexts that they had not considered before, often contexts that are not considered in world history surveys because they are "below the radar" of the great events. For example, they began to see world history through the eyes of a war bride; through the eyes of a civil rights militant; through the eyes of an immigrant doctor who assessed the medical profession from the perspective of the several different countries through which he had travelled; through the eyes of an immigrant from communist China who became a small scale entrepreneur in the USA; through the eyes of a middle class Indian who assessed the changing economy of his country through the evolution of the neighborhood in the suburbs of New Delhi in which he lived. The students gained not only new perspectives on issues that they already knew were important – war and peace; capitalism and communism; religious revivals – they also learned to recognize issues that they never had thought about before at all, oftentimes issues much closer to the grass roots experiences of common people. I am attaching several student papers so that you can draw your own conclusions.7

Howard Spodek is Professor of History at Temple University, with interests in Modern India, Global Urbanization, and World History. He can be contacted at

Appendix 1

Samantha Ray
Writing Seminar II
Howard Spodek
April 14, 2014

Love on the Black Market: The Story of Anh Zimmermann

     Picture, if you will, lines of stalls filled with people bustling to and fro and bargaining over items like TVs, cigarettes, cameras, and beer. Alongside these items, also picture drugs like heroin and military equipment being sold, and a woman haggling with a man over the price of her intimate company. This was an everyday sight on the black market in Vietnam leading up to and during the Vietnam War. This is where Anh Zimmermann (1) made her living and, coincidentally, found love.

     At the Nationalities Service Center, a gathering of seniors – mostly of Chinese and Vietnamese descent – in a basement of a church in North Philadelphia, I sat down at a table while I waited for my interview to begin. Around me were groups of seniors chatting in their native tongues, some playing card games or mahjong. A lone woman walked about the room and swayed in what could only be the movements of Tai Chi. Oddly enough, a radio set to today's hit music pumped out catchy pop songs quietly in the background as Anh Zimmermann and our translator, Nhan Do, settled across from me. After some failed, yet valiant, attempts to communicate with me in English, Anh allowed Nhan to translate for her and set about telling me her story.

     Anh Zimmermann was born in 1935, to a military family. Her father worked in the army, so she and her siblings lived with their parents in a military compound with other military families in Hanoi, in the North. Unfortunately, her mother and father both passed away by the time she was nine, and her older siblings had moved away to France, leaving her orphaned. She was taken into a Catholic monastery, where she received a strict education until she left at the age of twelve to travel to Saigon (present day Ho Chi Minh City) in the South. All of her paperwork had been lost with the death of her parents, but fortunately she found a family that was willing to cosign documents to allow her to live with them.

     Although her new family provided the roof over her head and an occasional hot meal, for the most part Anh had to support herself when it came to everyday necessities. At the age of twelve, she started selling newspapers out of a cart, on any available vacant spot of dirt, to earn an income to feed and clothe herself. For food, more often than not she would frequent local vendors who sold bowls of pho – a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup – for what would be the equivalent of five cents each. She laughed and shook her head when she lamented that she never learned to cook; she was glad food was so easily obtainable with little money. Her clothing, she said, was nothing ready-made and easily bought on the market; she had to buy fabrics and then hire someone to make the clothing for her.

     Throughout Anh's life, her main income came from dealing in the informal economy, selling newspapers from her little cart for years until she eventually made her way to the black market. (2) However, there was also a period of her life where she worked on a farm picking tea and coffee. Through the translator, she described the experience to me; she laughed – nervously, perhaps as a way to handle the emotions that must come with such memories – and said it was as if she were a migrant worker. I can only imagine the long hours and small pay for such hard and repetitive work. When I asked her if she knew what sort of commodities Vietnam exported while she lived there, she was completely clueless; she did not realize the very tea and coffee she had picked was a sizeable export from Vietnam during the period of French colonization. (3)

     The French colonization of Vietnam started in 1884 and, along with Cambodia and Laos, the area was known as Indochina. (4) The French government's acquisition of the area was purely for economic benefit, and they hoped it would open France to a wider market for trade. However, "[a]fter discovering that Vietnam could not provide a lucrative trade route into China, the French determined to exploit Indochina for itself." (5) Vietnam in particular was divided into three parts: Tonkin, Annam, and Cochichina – North, Central, and South, respectively. Beginning in the 1930s, the French mainly exploited the land for its agricultural resources. Along with the tea and coffee Anh and others picked – rice, pepper, coal, zinc, and tin were the other main resources exported back to France.(6)

     However, the major export at the turn of the 20th century was rubber due to the growing automobile industry in France. Through Indochina, France soon became the leading exporter of rubber, and gained the investment of major companies like Michelin which fueled further colonization. (7) With the profits, Vietnam began industrialization, opening factories which produced commodities like textiles, beer, and cigarettes. At the same time, the French were taxing the people to further their revenue. "The generation of tax revenues and the dismantling of indigenous systems of land use […] were significant buttresses to the overall policy of exploitation and revenue generation for the French state." (8) Not only were the French exploiting the natural resources of the area, but they were also exploiting the people who worked to produce the resources for them through taxation.

     When I asked Anh what she did about tax collectors, she said that if anyone ever came around to where she set up shop to collect, all she had to do was wheel her cart away for a few days and disappear. It slipped my mind to ask how she and the others warned each other when tax collectors were coming, or if there were any bribes involved, but she said usually she would just relocate to another vacant spot. There was an unspoken rule that any open spot was free game, so unless some government official kicked them out, anyone was free to sell without any government regulation. This leads me to believe people as poor as Anh, doing business only to sustain their own everyday living, were probably kept unregulated and largely ungoverned so that exploitation would be easier. The welfare of the poorer, rural people did not seem to be a concern of the government.

     In fact, the government did not seem to be involved in much of Anh's life at all. On the subject of healthcare, she informed me that she never once stepped foot inside a hospital in Vietnam. This was in part because there was no medical care she or others around her received. But she maintained that she had impeccable health; she told me that she and the people around her mainly relied on brewing herbs when they were sick. She recalls taking tablets – which she said people considered like magic – that came in a little bottle with the picture of a spider on it, but other than that there was nothing else to do but tough it out.

     If I had to describe Anh's life, tough would be an accurate word. Although the lack of government involvement could be seen as a positive thing, in Anh's mind, people like her seemed not to be much of anyone's concern; they were on their own. When I asked her how her standard of living compared with wealthier people, she clammed up and was visibly flustered. She said she had very bad memories of being discriminated against for her economic status, so she'd rather not talk about it. What little she commented on was how segregated the classes were, and how the wealthy always expected the common people to give more work for less pay. I also got the feeling that she was a very lonely and jaded young woman, because when I asked her about any friends she might have had she said there was no one you could trust. People to her were two-faced, and if you had money friends were easy to come by, but no one would help anyone unless money was involved.

     Imagine her delight, then, when she found love in the form of an American soldier. After years selling newspapers out of her cart, Anh decided it was time to move on to bigger things. We glossed over the exact hows and whys, but I found out that in 1965, at the age of 30, she took out a large loan and bought a lot of pricey, and apparently questionable, items to sell on the black market. I could speculate that she must have been influenced by someone to get into what must have been a lucrative business – perhaps some American soldier – but as Anh was unwilling to address the topic fully, due to its illicit nature, I never found out. As mentioned earlier, along with drugs and military equipment, the products being imported in for the Americans stationed there were being stolen and sold on the black market. (9) Although I could not ascertain what kind of illegal contraband Anh was selling, she told me a year after she entered the market, now half way into the Vietnam War, she found herself haggling with an American soldier who would become her husband. She laughed recalling that the two of them had a disagreement and fought over the item's price; who would have thought that two years later they would be married and living in the United States?

     After coming to the U.S. with her husband in 1968, Anh's life changed completely. Previously she had to work her whole life to keep herself alive; now her husband had become the breadwinner, and she focused on raising their children. When I asked her what parts of America were most different from her life in Vietnam, she said that the healthcare here was and still is - in her opinion - the best available. She also said the emphasis on the upbringing of the youth and the general lifestyle of the American people was vastly different from the way she lived, but she found happiness here.

     Although she said she has no friends or family remaining in Vietnam, she told me that she has gone back to Vietnam five times since she's been in America, first in 1991, and then roughly every five years since then. The improvements she has seen have been making the cities steadily more beautiful; though she says that Ho Chi Minh City's (10) progress is years behind Hanoi because there is more money there.

     As our interview came to a close we thanked each other and shook hands. She hurried back to another table where her friends, people she has grown to love and trust, were talking and playing cards. A handful of the seniors began to take a slow-paced dance class led by a woman from the Center as I talked to Nhan about the interview. He told me that a lot of the seniors have a hard time expressing themselves in interviews like these because there are such deep-seated emotions. Apparently at one point during the interview Anh threw in some curse words, which Nhan had chosen to censor, and suddenly the animated gestures and derisive laughter I had seen seemed to make much more sense. I couldn't help but feel a great deal of respect for this woman. Through my short interaction with her I felt her determination and strong will, which was only further confirmed by her story. After enduring the loss of her parents at an early age and being isolated from loved ones, after working so hard all alone to make a living for herself, she was finally able to find a place of belonging. I can only hope she and her husband continue to live happily and prosperously.


1. For the purposes of this essay, all names have been changed for anonymity.

2. John Walsh, D.Phil, "Street Vendors and the Dynamics of the Informal Economy: Evidence from Vung Tau, Vietnam," Asian Social Science 6 (2010), accessed April 14, 2014.Walsh says that the informal economy has been, and still is, an integral part of developing countries. It operates somewhere between rural and urbanized economies, and has largely become associated with the beggar class in East Asia.

3. Ronald J. Cima, Vietnam: a country study (Washington D.C.: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 1989), 104.

4. Chester A. Bain, Vietnam: The Roots of Conflict (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1967), 18- 19.

5. Bain, Roots of Conflict, 93.

6. Cima, Vietnam, 104 and 146.

7. Robert Miller and Dennis D. Wainstock, Indochina and Vietnam: The Thirty-five Year War, 1940-1975 (New York, NY: Enigma Books, 2013), 17.

8. Mark Cleary, "Valuing the Tropics: Discourses of Development in the Farm and Forest Sectors of French Indochina, circa 1900-40," Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 26 (2005), 12.

9. Major General George S. Prugh, Law at War: Vietnam 1964-1973 (Department of the Army, 1975), 103. According to the major general, this was made easy because the Vietnamese ports and storage facilities were inadequate for the huge influx of U.S. goods that followed the troops over.

10. Nhan told me that Anh still used the word Saigon to refer to the area, but gave no other explanation. This could either be because the city was still named such before she left, or because of her distaste for Ho Chi Minh himself, but we stayed away from political subjects because she seemed averse to them.

Appendix 2

Vincent Gryscavage
Writing Seminar II
Professor Spodek
May 29, 2014

Effects of Economic Liberalization in India

     Globalization is a term bandied about by academics lately; it encompasses nearly all the changes in our modern world. The word suggests interconnectedness, corporations without borders, and the spread of information. Tomas Larsson in his book The Race to the Top: The Real Story of Globalization gives a definition that unifies all these ideas. Larsson writes that globalization is, "the process of world shrinkage, of distances getting shorter, things moving closer. It pertains to the increasing ease with which somebody on one side of the world can interact, to mutual benefit, with somebody on the other side of the world." (1) I couldn't help but think of Larsson's definition as I met with Hitesh Mangal on a windy Friday morning. I was just waking up in Philadelphia while Hitesh was getting ready for bed in Gurgaon, India. We were meeting virtually in real time.

     If our meeting online via Skype wasn't an example of globalization and the process of world shrinkage, our opening conversation would be. "You look so grown up," said Hitesh smiling. I had never met Hitesh before this moment, but he and my mother had been online friends for nearly a decade, exchanging emails, stories, and yes, pictures of me and my sister. I prompted Hitesh to tell me about his day in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi that was rising to become an economic powerhouse in its own right due to the growth of private industry. Hitesh began by explaining his daily routine, at which point we began to talk in earnest. Speaking with Hitesh about socioeconomic change he had observed over time, I was able to piece together a narrative of India's economic liberalization and discover exactly who had benefited, and who may have been exploited in the pursuit of progress.

     Before exploring the primary anecdotes provided by Hitesh Mangal, it will be useful to discuss the process of economic liberalization India underwent in 1991. Prior to this time, the country had high tariffs and strict import licensing, preventing the importation of many goods and services. In 1991, India turned to the International Monetary Fund for a loan to cover demands on its foreign reserve holdings. The IMF responded with demands for economic restructuring and newly elected Prime Minister Narasimha Rao complied, explaining that, "the opening of the economy to the rest of the world was deemed essential to realize higher internal economic growth." (2) Liberalization was thus engineered with several aspects designed to encourage foreign investment and business. There was a gradual lowering of tariffs and the ending of import licensing, a process not fully complete until 2001. (3) The results of these policy changes were gradual, yet tangible almost immediately. Nearly any item or good could now be imported into India with few exceptions. State controlled enterprises gave way to the private sector, notably in telecommunications, a key business activity in Gurgaon. Additionally, the infrastructure sector was wide open to foreign investment. Indian-American academic Arvind Panagariya writes that, "Within ten years, the ratio of total goods and services trade to GDP rose from 17.2 percent to 30.6 percent." India was doubling its economic capacity in a very short time, and with that came clear benefits. There, however, may also have been an equally apparent social cost.

     The interview with Hitesh Mangal revealed both sides of this narrative of economic liberalization. He began by telling of the growth of Gurgaon, telling me how private companies, such as American Express, had invested in the city and opened their first call centers in early 2000. Hitesh described these early businesses as being constructed from entirely Indian labor, and built cheaply. Further, they were bringing in lots of employment for educated Indians and encouraging the growth of Gurgaon. This segued into a topic that had been discussed numerous times in class, the informal economy. Indians in Gurgaon were gaining legitimate desk jobs with various foreign companies who were investing in the country. This created a demand for other, informal service jobs filled by the lower class and created a special physical form in the cities.

     Hitesh described how cities all over India are laid out in similar fashion, wealthy households back to back with impoverished slum dwellings. He also revealed an interesting political power dynamic existing in Gurgaon, one that spoke volumes about the informal economy. Hitesh talked of a "mafia" that would swoop into vacant land in Gurgaon and purchase it cheaply. It would then turn around to protect small squatter settlements for a small amount of money. This wasn't an American notion of mafia, Hitesh stressed, it was instead an organization linked with local politicians. His exact words were that the mafia and politicians worked together to provide, "a nexus of informal protection." This mafia had the strength to manage the poor squatters and collect a rent of sorts, a portion of which was then passed along to politicians who ensured the mafia's own existence. It wasn't just an informal economy; it was an informal tax structure.

     Our conversation briefly paused and I struggled to connect these experiences back to the larger context of an India undergoing rapid globalization. I asked Hitesh to show me the view outside his window. Moments later the night sky of Gurgaon appeared, with Hitesh pointing out neighboring apartments and his own "two-wheeler" (motorcycle) and "four-wheeler" (car) in the parking space below his balcony. He was proud of owning both vehicles, and even more proud of being able to maintain a car for his sister as well. This, to him, was the picture of social mobility that some Indians had enjoyed since economic liberalization. As a child, Hitesh reported his father had a Vespa two-wheeler and that, "Having a four-wheeler was a dream." Hitesh had come from a relatively lower class family, not squatter-poor but certainly not as wealthy as he was now. Other examples of economic change provided by Hitesh were the spending habits practiced by his family. While in the past his parents had saved money religiously, he now had barely any savings, instead he embraced a consumer lifestyle, buying all the latest gadgets and electronics. Hitesh said his generation had shifted away from conserving their money, but he still tried to keep his monthly expenses low in case of the proverbial 'rainy day.'

     I had learned much about the urban changes experienced by India following liberalization, but now I was curious about the vehicles of social mobility. The main form discussed by Hitesh was also the obvious one, education. His father put aside his personal gain and stressed higher education to his son, ensuring Hitesh received his B.S. in Physics and eventually a Masters in International Trade, two very marketable degrees in a country that was economically booming. He went on to explain that although his own experience was positive, not all had access to these educational opportunities and his family had sacrificed to allow him the opportunity. India had different kinds of educational institutions, namely local language schools in the villages and, at the opposite end, higher schooling that is done entirely in English.

     This overview by Hitesh corresponded with some of my own research on urban education opportunities. Economists Eric Edmonds, Petia Topalova, and Nina Pavcnik explore this issue in their article Child Labor and Schooling in a Globalizing World. Specifically they study the prevalence of child labor following liberalization compared to the numbers of children being educated. They find that in cities undergoing rapid economic expansion, particularly where tariffs have been severely lowered, child labor is prevalent.(4) Conversely, areas not experiencing tariff drops still experience the overall benefit of the growing economy, encourage education, and thus have higher numbers of children in schools.(5) This study reinforced Hitesh's anecdote about how fiercely competitive education in India is, and how many do not have access to these opportunities. Instead, some children still find themselves economically exploited despite financial booms in their cities, one example potentially being Gurgaon.

     Our conversation reached a comfortable conclusion and I wished Hitesh a good night and logged off, although not before showing him the Philadelphia skyline out my window. I was left sorting through pages of notes and trying to create a strong narrative out of the last hour. I found the task difficult to do. No wonder. India is a complex country. Since 1991 there has been massive economic growth and investment from wealthy foreign companies. Some families have experienced tangible social mobility; where a father had owned a motorcycle, his son how could own two cars. Perversely though, many Indians remained stagnated in their economic strata, unable to break free. Slums still existed, often right alongside gated apartment communities, all overseen by an informal political mafia that encouraged their poor living conditions. Child labor was still rampant in urban centers, even when they were expanding rapidly. The onset of wealth for some had led to continued poverty for others. The hour with Hitesh had revealed, if nothing else, that economic liberalization for the greater good of India had a clear social cost, and that further action to end the exploitation of the lower class would be needed as soon as possible.


1. Tomas Larsson, The Race to the Top: The Real Story of Globalization (Washington: Cato Institute, 2001), 9.

2. Surendra Kaushik, "India's Evolving Economic Model: A Perspective on Economic and Financial Reforms," American Journal of Economics and Sociology Vol. 56, No. 1 (1997), 78.

3. Arvind Panagariya, "Trade Liberalization Since 1991," in Encyclopedia of India, ed. Stanley Wolpert (Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006), 173-177.

4. Eric Edmonds, Petia Topalova, and Nina Pavcnik, "Child Labor and Schooling in a Globalizing World: Some Evidence from Urban India," Journal of the European Economic Association Vol. 7, No. 2 (2009): 504.

5. Ibid.; 505.

Works Cited

Edmonds, Eric, Petia Topalova, and Nina Pavcnik. "Child Labor and Schooling in a Globalizing World: Some Evidence from Urban India." Journal of the European Economic Association Vol. 7, No. 2. 2009.

Kaushik, Surendra. "India's Evolving Economic Model: A Perspective on Economic and Financial Reforms." American Journal of Economics and Sociology Vol. 56, No. 1. 1997.

Larsson, Tomas. The Race to the Top: The Real Story of Globalization. U.S.: Cato Institute, 2001.

Mangal, Hitesh. Interview by Vincent Gryscavage. Written. Philadelphia, March 21, 2014. In possession of author.

Panagariya, Arvind. "Trade Liberalization Since 1991." In Encyclopedia of India, ed. Stanley Wolpert. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006.

Appendix 3

Nicholas Garcia
Prof. Howard Spodek

From Lijiang to Philly: Worlds Apart

     When I arrived in Philadelphia in April of 2011, I was an outsider who frequented a local Chinese food restaurant. A typical example of the surrounding neighborhood shops, the one room take-out restaurant with bullet-proof glass separating the clientele and the employees, menus pasted over the walls, a bold handwritten sign that reads "Cash Only" with an arrow pointing to the ATM, and no tables had become a place to get not just Chinese food but ice cream and cheese-stuffed pretzels at 1 am. Over several months, as I became a more familiar face in the establishment, I noticed a difference in attitudes. "NEXT! What do you want?" became "Hi, you called in the order?"

     As I spent time in the establishment I grew more familiar with the business practices that took place under the table. As customers would ask for blunt wraps and cigarettes, they would be given the items in a brown paper bag so as not to alert the police parked just outside that they were wrongfully selling tobacco. In my head I had created a back-story for the restaurant as some kind of front for drugs or maybe even for smuggling people. My imagination was the limit. I doubted that I would ever be greeted with answers to resolve some of the wild fantasies I had, but whether it was luck or fate I found myself given the opportunity to learn more about the shop that stood as a product of the opening of a country and economic reforms.

     As Mr. Qin (1) took me to the back room through the kitchen, I felt as though it was my first day on the job getting the grand tour. As he introduced me to the head chef, who was his nephew, and even his 5 year old grandnieces who helped their mother put forks and napkins together, the environment reminded me of some of the Mexican family-run bakeries I had been to in Arizona. In the back room filled with paperwork and overstock inventory items, Mr. Qin's wife, Lin, sat looking over invoices. Stopping what she was doing, she stood up, introduced herself, and offered her seat to me. Mr. Qin sat at the large desk and rummaged through some paperwork, looking for a pack of matches. As he lit his cigarette he asked me further about the project that I had been tasked with. After a little more in-depth explanation, this well-spoken son of a farmer seemed to feel at ease that I was not some undercover government employee trying to catch him with his "pants down."

     Mr. Qin had apparently always been on his toes when it came to what governments were capable of, and in his 65 years of life he could hardly recall a time when he felt the government was something other than problematic. Born into a peasant family in 1949 he, the eldest of five children, grew up near Lijiang in Yunnan Province, where his family had farmed for generations. When Mao Zedong had taken control of the government, Mr. Qin's family had all been supporters of what he had been able to accomplish, and looked forward to prosperity from the land reform. However, with the implementation of the commune system (2) the goal of building the nation had started to take its toll on the individual success of the family. The opportunity to gain any type of mobility in the newly developing world had been put on hold. Mr. Qin said he only became more critical of the government's role in promoting state ideology as he saw the negative effects of some of the worst conditions created by government.

     Mao's Great Leap Forward (3) had started when Mr. Qin was nine years old and he saw many farmer families flee to bordering Burma, many never returning. He marked this period as the time where he first thought about wanting to leave China. He never said anything to his family, who still actively supported Mao, he thought. If the people he had grown up with all believed in the leader's ideas, why leave? In fact, two years later, his family, who had begun to suffer as a result of this policy, had begun to secretly question leaving as well. While the goals of The Great Leap Forward were to take advantage of China's agrarian roots to propel them onto the world stage, the tactics used only caused famine and death. During the time that the Great Leap Forward was implemented, the economy of China suffered. Even a nine year old could see that; but before the family was able to arrange a way out, the Great Leap Forward was put to an end in 1961. He remembers their lives starting to get better but he still wanted to leave, "At the very least I did not want to be a farmer my whole life."

     In order to get ahead Mr. Qin needed money. He felt that the way to get money was to be educated and he did very well in school. At the age of 17, he saw the start of The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.(4) To Mr. Qin this stirred up the sad emotions that he had felt from the Great Leap Forward. Although the Cultural Revolution had made its way to Lijiang, he said the presence of the Red Guard was not something he had paid any attention to. By the age of 20, Mr. Qin had become a popular face in the city as he took up small odd jobs around the city and came to know the area well. This helped because he said there were always British people coming into the city looking for tours. He had begun to teach himself English so he was able to make some extra money because the British tipped well. Everything that he made he saved, not telling his family what he was doing. He said that he was not happy that he had to hide his money, but he knew that if they knew what he was doing they would want him to put it towards the house. He wanted to help but he also thought of his own future and his desire to be more than a peasant farmer.

     He worked on the farm until he had turned 21 and married Lin, who had moved from the city of Hangzhou in the east. In Lijiang, they had started a small business that sold traditional Chinese herbs and medicines. They managed to start up the small traditional medicine shop with the help of his father-in-law and the money that he had saved, but he said that he "allowed" his father-in-law put up the majority of the money for the shop, since he had done well for himself in Hangzhou. Eventually his father-in-law joined their shop because he felt his best opportunity to stay in business was to move to the rural areas where people still relied on traditional Chinese medicine. In the eastern cities, Western medicine was becoming the fashion.

     Working together they sold herbs that his family and neighbors had grown on their farm. He said his family had good land for growing a local variety of bean that was popular. When I asked if it was hard to open his business, he said that it was easy to set up a shop in the city, especially if you were in the medicine trade. "If you were working to heal the nation, all the better," he said they would say. Mr. Qin was living a stable life for his family, which had blossomed with two daughters, but the bigger question to him was sustainability. His shop continued to be profitable enough for his family through the 1970's, but he wanted to make an even better life for them. After Mao's death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping moved the country towards a more open policy. With this new freedom Mr. Qin knew that after all these years he might get his opportunity to position his family for new heights of success.

     China in 1980, under the Chinese economic reform (5), re-entered the World Bank under the direction of Deng Xiaoping. As a result, an increase in agriculture had helped his family who remained on the farm. As the country continued to open up economically, he had heard that Chinese students began traveling abroad. Mr. Qin was excited about this for two reasons: first, with the increase of tourists the city had become more profitable. More shops and cafes opened. Second, he felt that living in China his two daughters, despite the equality that was available to them, would not receive the opportunity that, as a parent, he wanted for them. He had put his hopes in his daughters having a better education in the west. The goals of the government seemed to coincide with his and he was happy to see that his own goals for the future were becoming possible.

     By 1989 his eldest daughter had done well in school and was looking forward to entering a university. With money that he had saved, and with the help of government-funded programs, he sent his eldest daughter to the US to finish her secondary education in California. I asked if it was common for students to get government support for traveling abroad. His response was the government wanted to make it appear as though everything was fair, but if you knew the right people, anything was possible. I was left to assume that he in fact did know the right people. He also did not seem to mind using the resources of the country he was trying to leave. After visiting briefly in China, his eldest daughter returned to America where she got married. By the early 90's, although traditional medicine was still popular, Mr. Qin saw the increase in biomedicine and, like his father-in-law, looked towards moving. The goal he sought was an ocean away in the Americas. In 1995, after only two years, his daughter was able to get him, her mother, and her sister to come to the USA.

     Mr. Qin had taken a step back in having to depend on his daughter for support, but he felt just being in the US was an opportunity in itself. At 46, he had taken up his old profession of doing odd jobs for neighbors and started to save again. In 2000 with help from his Chinese-American son-in-law (emphasizing Chinese), who was working for a successful law firm that dealt with immigration, he was able to open up a small food truck that sold soup to construction workers. With the earnings from it he was able to save money and also to send money back to his family in China. In 2006 the Qins were able to get their nephew to come live with them and they moved to Philadelphia where they opened the current restaurant with his youngest daughter. The restaurant does well enough that he can still provide money to his family back in China. I asked if any of the sales from the "under the table" transactions went to the family. He laughed and said "I send what I can."

     Mr. Qin had managed to move an ocean and a continent away from where he had grown up. When asked what he felt about the upward mobility that he had been able to achieve economically, he said that a lot of factors contributed to what he had managed to do and he was thankful mainly to his family. I asked Mr. Qin if globalization meant anything to him. He said he never thought about the term while he was growing up but if he had, he said, he would probably have seen it as the opportunity to make more for oneself in a place that was better suited. He could not imagine how difficult it would have been, had he been born in America to move to China and open a shop compared to moving the other way and coming from China to the USA. "It was night and day. Can any American really go to another country and open up a business so easily?" He said it would be difficult to imagine. He feels that he does not have to try so hard anymore. He doesn't worry about not making ends meet and now, at his age, he doesn't feel the need to do anything more with his business. "I plan to give the restaurant to my daughter and nephew. I imagine they can bring more family members from China to work here. When I am ready to retire I will go back to China and live with family."


1. Names are changed.

2. Dali Yang, Calamity and Reform in China: State Rural Society and institutional Change Since the Great Leap Forward (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996).

3. Jonathan Mirsky, "The China We Don't Know." New York Review Of Books Volume 56, Number 3. Feb. 26, 2009).

4. Paul Clark, The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. 2008).

5. Berry Naughton, A Political Economy of China's Economic Transition in China's Great Transformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2008).

Appendix 4

Jon Owens
Prof. Howard Spodek

International Residency: The Migration of Indian Physicians

     Over the past few weeks, I traveled to Metropolitan1 Medical Center to speak with Doctor Mahesh Mathur.2 He is a gastroenterologist who immigrated to the United States in 1996. The doctor and I met at his office on two occasions to discuss his life experiences. Born in Uttar Pradesh, India, the doctor lived in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom prior to arriving in the U.S. The aim of his international residency, he told me, was "advancement, career progression." In some regards, Dr. Mathur's personal migratory experiences mirror the collective experiences of many physicians from India. The migration of skilled professionals from India to industrialized countries has increased dramatically since the 1980s and 1990s.3 This migration of talent is sometimes referred to as "brain drain." My discussions with Dr. Mathur prompted me to examine this issue.

     "Around 2000, Indian-born doctors and nurses were the largest expatriate medical personnel in OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries, representing about 15% of all immigrant nurses and doctors." The majority of these expatriate Indian doctors practice in the United States.4 Dr. Mathur is one of them. He began to study medicine at a local medical school in his native state of Uttar Pradesh. Upon completing his studies there, he moved to Saudi Arabia, where he worked as an internist in the Ministry of Health. Next to the United States and the United Kingdom, the Middle East has the largest number of overseas Indian doctors.5

     The vast majority of Indian migrants in the Middle East, however, are semi-skilled or unskilled workers who are typically granted only temporary residence.6 White-collar workers and professionals in Saudi Arabia, on the other hand are "in great demand in the government departments and the public sector enterprises and they also earn high salaries. They are allowed to bring their families and children stay with their parents till their school education is completed. Life in general is comfortable for the professionals and white-collar workers in the Gulf countries. They are able to keep contacts with compatriots and nationals, form associations and participate in socio-cultural activities."7

     Some of this information is validated by the doctor's experiences. He was indeed employed by a government department and his wife lived with him during his time in Saudi Arabia. I neglected to ask when and where their children were born. The doctor, a Hindu, intimated that he, nevertheless, sometime felt like an isolated outsider in this country dominated by Islam. He did, however, seem to appreciate the opportunity to travel back to India from Saudi Arabia at regular intervals to spend time with family.

     From the Gulf, Dr. Mathur moved to the United Kingdom, where he resided in East Midland for two years and Norfolk for another three. It was during his time in the UK that he encountered the most pointed prejudice of his time spent abroad. "There's always discrimination because in job interviews and job selection local people are given priority for everything. It's less obvious here (in the United States) but it's quite obvious in the UK." This apparent prejudice exists despite the fact that the medical community in the United Kingdom has undergone considerable diversification since the 1970s: "The percentage of UK medical graduates who are non-white has increased substantially from about 2% in 1974 and will approach 30% by 2005. White men now comprise little more than a quarter of all UK medical students."8

     As a medical professional, Dr. Mathur learned a great deal from his varied experiences in Saudi Arabia, the UK, and later the US. "My biggest change was my educational advancement, my training. I had different kinds of training. I trained in the UK - that training was different than what I had in the US. My experience has broadened."

     In 1996, Dr. Mathur came to the United States. Since arriving Stateside, he and his family have resided in the Philadelphia area. The doctor studied at Penn Medicine in Center City and later began practicing at Metropolitan. One of six children (one deceased), the doctor is the only member of his immediate family who lives abroad. Like most Indian-Americans who have emigrated here, the doctor is a Hindu who is highly educated. I learned that Hindus comprise roughly 80% of the Indian-American population and that most "are more educated and have higher income compared to" their countrymen living in India.9 Indian expatriates comprise "4.9 percent of the U.S. physician workforce."10

     I was curious as to whether or not the doctor's classmates from medical school in India have had careers similar to his, studying and practicing in industrialized nations (sans Saudi Arabia). He told me, "Many people left, many stayed back. Everybody has done well, whether they stayed back or came here." Some of his perspectives have undergone considerable change as a result of his living abroad. "My horizon has broadened, obviously. And I look at different things with a more independent mind, rather than a biased mind, just being out of India. And obviously, you meet with different people, different cultures, and it'll change your thinking."

     As I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, some of Dr. Mathur's personal migratory experiences mirror the collective experiences of physicians in India. The vast majority of Indian expatriate physicians study and practice in industrialized, English-speaking nations. Similar to Dr. Mathur, young Indian physicians of the '80s to the present day consider going abroad to be a prestigious step in their careers. It seems to me that most young medical professionals in India are under the impression that "the West is the best." There is a "long-standing belief of young doctors and their parents that training outside of India is superior and a mark of achievement."11 Based on some of the academic literature I've encountered, young medical professionals from India seek work abroad for the following reasons12:

  • Earning power: abroad, a physician can secure a greater income

  • Access to technologies and specialized study programs not available at home

  • Avoiding a chaotic bureaucracy and commercial system in India in order to become part of a healthcare system perceived as more regularized and merit-based

     Most Indian physicians abroad "leave with at least an open mind on the subject of return to India, but growing familiarity and acceptance as well as clinical opportunities and income make return less likely. Most...physicians going to the United States for training ended up staying permanently; return rates from the United Kingdom were higher."13 I neglected to ask the doctor whether he had intended to practice abroad for the rest of his career when he initially left India. I did, however, ask if he felt that there was more room for career advancement and an ability to earn a more comfortable living in the West, to which he replied, "I don't think so. The quality of life is different, but if you just look at earning, maybe not the same amount, but the amount that you can buy is maybe equal. So depends upon the training you have had. …" With India's "economic development and technological development," he told me, there is greater opportunity for Indian physicians of today to flourish without going abroad. Such developments, he believes, might serve to persuade young medical professionals in India to stay in their home country.

     I found an interesting survey taken in 2004 by medical students in Bangalore. Of the 166 students surveyed, 59% "thought of leaving India for further training abroad and, of those who wished to leave, 41 (42%) preferred the United States, compared with 56% in 1998. An additional 42 (43%) preferred the United Kingdom, 4 (4%) Canada, and 5 (5%) Australia and New Zealand. Only 2 (2%) preferred the Middle East … The opinions of Indian students about U.S. social norms were not as strongly positive as their views of professional opportunities… Indeed, half felt that the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada are more hospitable destinations than the United States."14 I was unable to find any literature that explicitly detailed whether or not India's economic development over the past few decades has led more physicians to stay at home rather than seeking work abroad. The survey detailed above, however, leads me to believe that the idea of practicing medicine in an industrialized, English-speaking nation is still a very alluring option for young physicians from India.

     There are mixed feelings in India about the migration of professional talent. Some literature I encountered sees a number of positive aspects in India's "brain drain," going as far as calling it "brain gain." Adherents of this school of thought feel that the "export of physicians provides opportunities to the individuals, financial remittances to the country, and the augmentation of NRI communities abroad. The public's acceptance of doctors going abroad is bolstered by a perception in some quarters that 'India has enough doctors,' or, occasionally, 'India has too many doctors.'"15 With an overabundance of young medical professionals, one could contend, there are only limited numbers of typically urban, middle-class Indians willing and able to pay for their services. And, after all, in a democratic nation, who has the right to dictate where India's young medical professionals seek work? Those who see "brain drain/gain" as a positive development might also point to the fact that some individual doctors and returning nonresident Indians have started private hospitals in the homeland.16 An increase in the country's stock of human capital (enhanced by exposure to technologies and practices abroad) is clearly very appealing to some people in India.

     On the other hand, there are many people who see the migration of professional talent as detrimental to the nation, particularly with regard to higher education. The "most severe long-term impact has been the loss of potential high-quality faculty in Indian higher education, and thereby on the human capital of the next generation."17 In addition, some opponents of skilled migration feel that since many physicians abroad have been trained at public institutions, their going abroad and not contributing to Indian society is a waste of tax money. Providing intelligent, young professionals with an immediate passport out of India has evoked the ire of many.18 Finally, some might argue that more resources, talent and attention ought to be provided to the nation's poor, with a greater collective focus on primary, preventive efforts rather than tertiary, curative health care.19

     Living in Uttar Pradesh, Saudi Arabia,the UK, and the USA, has, naturally, broadened the horizons of Dr. Mahesh Mathur. He's undergone considerable growth as a both a professional and as an independent thinker. He is a very sharp man who was gracious in taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with me. Discussing some of his experiences led me to some fascinating research concerning the migration of professional talent from India. A complex, wide-reaching issue, the migration of Indian physicians is embraced by some and rejected by others. It seems to me that there are both positives and negatives when it comes to this issue. I can understand both sides of the debate. On the whole, examining this issue has led me to reconsider the image of the South-Asian migrant worker simply as a low-paid, powerless laborer in the Gulf. I will now also think of the highly-educated, independent Indian physician who makes his or her home abroad.

Works Cited

Cooper, Richard A., Nyapati R. Rao, and Uttam K. Rao. "Indian Medical Students' Views on Immigration for Training and Practice." Academic Medicine81.2 (2006): 185-88. OvidSP. Web. 14 May 2014.

Dalmia, Sanjay. "Migration and Indian Doctors." Indian Journal of Surgery68.5 (2006): 281-82. EbscoHost. Web. 14 May 2014.

Kapur, Devesh. Diaspora, Development, and Democracy: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2010. Print.

Khadria, Binod. "Bridging the Binaries of Skilled and Unskilled Migration from India." Dynamics of Indian Migration: Historical and Current Perspectives. Ed. S. Irudaya Rajan and Marie Percot. (London: Routledge, 2011), 251-85.

Mullan, Fitzhugh. "Doctors For The World: Indian Physician Emigration." Health Affairs25.2 (2006): 380-93. Health Affairs. Web. 14 May 2014.


1. Name changed

2. Name changed.

3. Kapur, Diaspora, Development, and Democracy: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 2010). 61

4. Ibid, 120

5. Ibid, 98

6. Khadria, "Bridging the Binaries of Skilled and Unskilled Migration from India," Dynamics of Indian Migration: Historical and Current Perspectives, S. Irudaya Rajan and Marie Percot, eds (London: Routledge, 2011), 268

7. Ibid, "Bridging the Binaries, 268

8. Dalmia, 281-2.

9. Kapur, Diaspora, Development , 73

10. Mullan, "Doctors For The World: Indian Physician Emigration" in Health Affairs25.2 (2006), 387.

11. Ibid, "Doctors For The World," 388

12. Ibid, 389

13. Ibid, 384

14. Cooper, Rao, and Rao, "Migration and Indian Doctors." Indian Journal of Surgery68.5 (2006), 184-187

15. Mullan, "Doctors For The World," 390

16. Kapur, Diaspora, Development, 98

17. Kapur, Diaspora, Development, 122

18. Mullan, "Doctors For The World," 386

19. Kapur, Diaspora, Development, 122



1 Barbara W. Sommer and Mary Kay Quilan, The Oral History Manual (Lanham, MD: Altamira Press, 2009) and Donald A. Ritchie, Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed. 2003) provide excellent, standard introductions to the field. Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson, eds., The Oral History Reader (New York: Routledge, 2006) provides a wide overview of the field and its techniques. Consult The Oral History Association website for continuous updating of the philosophy and practices of the field:

2 Marc Jason Gilbert has called my attention to an earlier essay in World History Connected that approaches the issue very systematically. David Hertzel, "Ancestry, History, and Meaning in the 21st Century Classroom," World History Connected, Vol. 7, no. 3(October, 2010), Accessed 10 August 2014. Hertzel's approach differed from mine in two fundamental ways, one unexpected and one intentional. Like Hertzel, I had also expected that my students would focus their interviews on older relatives, but when the course re-focused to a consideration of African, Asian, and Latin American history, most students had to find people outside their families as the subjects for their interviews. Second, for Hertzel, and many others who encourage student interviews, the interview seems to be the end product of the research. For me and my students the interview was only a part of the assignment, to be evaluated and placed into context through further reading, discussion, and perhaps additional interviewing, returning to the original interviewee, or to additional interviewees.

3 James H. Overfield, ed. Sources of Global History since 1900 (Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2nd ed. 2013).

4 Howard Spodek, "Raju and the Radisson: Informality Rules," Accessed 19 August 2014.

5 Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO):

6 Subsequent to the course, I discovered on YouTube a very useful, very brief (3 minute) introduction to the art of interviewing from PBS interview host Tavis Smiley: "How To Get More from Your Subjects."

7 One parting caveat. As I designed the course, I consulted with Temple's public historian, and others, about the need for permissions in human subject research. Most seemed agreed that if the interviews were not part of a collective research project, and were for use only within the class, and not for publication, formal permission would not be required. Although we were using the methods of oral history, the variety of student papers was more diffuse than would be usual in a focused oral history project and we made no attempt to collect them in an archive. So I gave each student a letter from me on Temple letterhead to be given to each interviewee stating the purposes of the course, and the uses to which the interviews would be put. The issue changed somewhat, after the fact, with the projected publication of four of the papers in World History Connected .We now asked each student to return to the person interviewed in the WHC papers and seek their permission to publish. All interviewees have agreed without reservation.

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