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History, Culture, and Representation

Members of every community, every institution, and every society have stories to tell. This priority area aims to recover and center the histories, cultures, and voices of traditionally marginalized communities that are often invisible in dominant narratives. Activities in this priority area emphasize the inclusion of perspectives, representations, and methodologies that allow for a more complete — and necessarily complex — picture of the human condition and the interactions of individuals and groups with societal contexts. One such effort includes:

MVisible Voices Podcast Series

History as told through lived experience can help illuminate what’s been forgotten, decentered, moved to the periphery, and excluded. It can also serve to relocate particular narratives to the center. The MVisible Voices project is about recognizing the lived experiences of people whose narratives are not always visible, heard, or centered, but whose stories are very much a part of the university’s history. 

The project was developed to inform and support the Bicentennial Celebration here at University of Michigan (U-M). NCID embarked on a collaborative oral history project to document the experiences of U-M’s history from the perspectives of members of communities of color (among others) often excluded from the telling of institutional history. Through narrative/shared storytelling methods and the medium of podcasting, MVisible Voices presents the stories and experiences of U-M community members whose life paths were influenced by their time at the University of Michigan. 

We choose to make these stories visible, not solely through seeing, but through listening, feeling, and expanding our senses as we learn from so many who have traversed U-M.

Each episode brings together an intergenerational group of current students, alumni, and faculty to explore a topic relevant to the U-M campus life through shared stories and experiences and conversation about the past, present, and future of U-M. The shared stories reflect complex relationships between the university and its denizens, including themes of community, love, struggle, empowerment, resistance, survival, and success. Some accounts challenge a harmonious institutional narrative, but some also point to institutional progress or opportunities for the institution to continue to evolve and change in ways that allow it to live up to its mission and ideals for all members. In addition, each podcast episode is supplemented by archival research and scholarship to situate stories in national, state, and institutional contexts. In sum, these hosted dialogues highlight the lived experiences of historically marginalized individuals as well as their contributions to the U-M history and tradition. We will produce and broadcast one of the podcasts live during fall Bicentennial Celebration events and make available the full set of 11 podcasts and accompanying materials and artifacts through a dedicated website and in U-M library archives, for public use in academic, curricular, and co-curricular efforts. 

Lead collaborators for this project includes our Scholarship-to-Practice Fellows, Elizabeth James (Department of Afroamerican and African Studies) and Shelly Conner (U-M Alumni Association). Additional NCID collaboration partners include faculty, staff, and students from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, U-M Office of Academic Innovation, the U-M Alumni Association, and the U-M Bicentennial Committee.