Dr. Martha Norkunas

Professor

Dr. Martha Norkunas
615-494-7701
Room 266, Peck Hall (PH)
MTSU Box 23, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Areas of Expertise

Oral History; Public History; Folklore; Cultural Memory; Race, Gender, and Space; Commemorative Landscapes; Cultural Geography; Labor History

Biography

Martha Norkunas is Professor of Oral and Public History in the Public History Program at Middle Tennessee State University. She holds a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University...

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Martha Norkunas is Professor of Oral and Public History in the Public History Program at Middle Tennessee State University. She holds a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University’s Folklore Institute. She is the author of The Politics of Public Memory: Tourism, History and Ethnicity in Monterey, California (SUNY Press, 1993) and Monuments and Memory: History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002/ Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006). Her recent articles address racialized and gendered space and teaching to listen. Norkunas’s work examines how cultural memory is represented in narrative and on the landscape, and how those representations intersect with race, gender, class and power. From 1999-2009 Norkunas directed the Project in Interpreting the Texas Past (ITP) at the University of Texas at Austin. She taught interdisciplinary teams of graduate students to think critically about memory, history, and culture and to create more diverse and inclusive interpretations at Texas historic sites. ITP produced award winning films, exhibits, educational materials, posters, brochures, oral history booklets, an in-depth oral history project with African Americans in Texas, and an oral history project exploring race and identity among college students.  Since joining the History Department at MTSU in 2009 Norkunas has created a concentration in Oral History, and broadened the African American Oral History Project include life histories with African American in Tennessee. She continues to create community-based oral and public history projects, involving students with people of color, immigrants and refugees, women, global workers, climate change, inequality and student debt, challenging students to ask how historical and cultural knowledge can address important social issues. Her current research examines issues associated with empathic listening in oral history, and narrating racialized space.  Norkunas is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Houston Endowment, and other state and regional foundations. She served as a board member of the National Council on Public History, was the Program Co-Chair of the 2015 Oral History Association Conference and in 2016 was elected to the board of the International Oral History Association.

 

 

 

 

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Publications

Selected Publications

Books

Monuments and Memory, History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2002; Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006. Honorable Mention Eli Kongas-Maranda Prize of the Women's Folklore Section, American Folklore Society, 2003. 

Work, Recreation, and Culture: Selected Essays in United States Labor History. Editor (with Mart...

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Selected Publications

Books

Monuments and Memory, History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2002; Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006. Honorable Mention Eli Kongas-Maranda Prize of the Women's Folklore Section, American Folklore Society, 2003. 

Work, Recreation, and Culture: Selected Essays in United States Labor History. Editor (with Martin Blatt). New York: Garland Press, 1996.

The Politics of Public Memory: Tourism, History and Ethnicity in Monterey California. Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1993. Historic Preservation Book Award, Mary Washington College, Center for Historic Preservation, 1994.

Articles

“Introduction: Experiencing the More-than-Human World,” Martha Norkunas, Michaela Fenske (eds), Narrative Culture, vol 4, no. 2 (2017): 105-110. 

"Are Trees Spiritual? Do Trees Have Souls? Narratives about Human-Tree Relationships," Martha Norkunas, Michaela Fenske (eds), Narrative Culture, vol 4, no. 2 (2017): 169-184.

“Narrating the Racialization of Space in Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee,” Colloquia Humanistica, Neighborhood as a Cultural and Social Problem Institute of Slavic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, no. 4 (2015): 11-25. https://ispan.waw.pl/journals/index.php/ch/index 

“Teaching to Listen: Listening Exercises and Self-Reflexive Journals,” Oral History Review v. 38, no. 1 (Winter-Spring 2011): 73-108.

"Narratives of Resistance and the Consequences of Resistance," Journal of Folklore Research, v. 41, nos.2-3 (May-December 2004): 105-123.

“Women, Work and Ethnic Identity: Personal Narratives and the Ethnic Enclave in the Textile City of Lowell, Massachusetts,” The Journal of Ethnic Studies, v. 15, no. 3 (Fall 1987): 27-48.

Chapters in Books

“The Vulnerable Listener,” in Off the Record, Unspoken Negotiations in the Practice of Oral History, Anna Sheftel and Stacey Zembrzycki, eds., Palgrave Studies in Oral History, Palgrave McMillan, (2013): 81-96. Book awarded the Oral History Association 2014 Book Prize. 

“The Ethnic Enclave as Cultural Space: Women’s Oral Histories of Life and Work in Lowell,” in The Continuing Revolution, Robert Weible, ed., Lowell, Massachusetts: The Lowell Historical Society, (2004): 323-339.

Reviews, Essays and Digital Media

“Military Monuments and North Carolina,” in Remembrance, Tar Heel Junior Historian Association Magazine, Fitz Brundage, ed. Raleigh, North Carolina: North Carolina Museum of History, (Fall 2014): 4-5.

“Revisiting Monterey 20 Years After ‘The Politics of Public Memory,’” History at Work, A Public History Commons for the National Council on Public History, posted January 14, 2014, http://publichistorycommons.org/

Producer and director: “‘And that’s how we did in the mill’: Women in the Lowell Textile Mills.” (Color, 3/4”, 30 min.).  Lowell women talk about immigration, ethnic communities, and textile mills.  Received Honorable Mention 1984 New England Film and Video Contest; aired on WGBH Boston 9/84; WTIU Indiana 5/85; part of the Lowell National Historical Park’s Outreach Program. Reedited and digitized 2010. Available on youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFX273CZsII, produced 1984, reedited 2010.

“Thinking about Climate Change as Public Historians,” (with Cathy Stanton), Public History News, National Council on Public History, v. 28, no. 4 (2008).  

“A Monument is Apart from Ordinary Space and Time,” Podcast for the exhibition, America Starts Here: Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, The Austin Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, 2007.

“Introduction, African American Texans Oral History Project,” Online Took Kit for Teaching African American History, University of Texas at Austin, 2007, http://www.utexas.edu/world/lifteveryvoice/histories/index.html

“Landmarks of American Women’s History,” The Public Historian v.27, no. 1 (Winter 2005).

“Shaping the Past,” The Women’s Review of Books, v. XXI, no. 12 (September 2004): 23-4. Review essay of Monuments to the Lost Cause, Restoring Women’s History Through Historic Preservation, and Naked Barbies, Warrior Joes, & Other Forms of Visible Gender.

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Presentations

Recent Presentations

2018             Featured Speaker, “Mutable Pasts,” Belmont University Humanities Symposium The Present and the Future of the Past; and panelist, “Memory and Narrative.” 

2018             “Uneasy Listening, or When Trauma Changes the Present, it Changes the Past,” Particularities of Interviewing Tr...

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Recent Presentations

2018             Featured Speaker, “Mutable Pasts,” Belmont University Humanities Symposium The Present and the Future of the Past; and panelist, “Memory and Narrative.” 

2018             “Uneasy Listening, or When Trauma Changes the Present, it Changes the Past,” Particularities of Interviewing Traumatized People, International Oral History Pre-Conference Workshop, Jyväskylä, Finland.  

2018             Chair and presenter, “Ideas about Listening in the Life History Interview,” Interviews and Methods Panel, International Oral History Conference, Jyväskylä, Finland.  

2017             Invited speaker, Winter Oral History School, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, India. Presented public lecture, “Narratives, Resistance and the Shifting Geographies of Power,” and talk on panel, “Memory and the Art of Interviewing.”  

2017             Panel Member, “Audiences Embody Racialized and Gendered Geographies,” Imagining the Audience, Oral History Association, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

2017             Presenter, “Bounded Worlds of Glass: Concepts of Home in Systems of Racial Exclusion,” Walls of Glass: Visibility and Transparence in Materiality and Metaphor, International Society for Ethnology and Folklore, Göttingen, Germany.  

2016             Panel Member, “The Narrative Life of Trees,” Experiencing the Other-Than-Human World Panel, American Folklore Society/ International Society for Folk Narrative Research Joint Conference, Miami, Florida.  

2016             Invited Closing Plenary Panel Speaker, “Oral History and the Movement of Gendered and Racialized Bodies,” The Dialogue between Oral History and History: Convergences and Divergences, International Oral History Association Conference, Bangalore, India.  

2016             Panelist, “Interpreting the Gender of Racialized Space,” International Oral History Association Conference, Bangalore, India.  

2016             Invited Keynote, “The Complex Terrain of Racialized Space: Nuances, Ambiguities and the Social Construction of Power,” Burnham-Macmillan 2015-2016 Lecture Series--Memorials: Origins and Transformations, History Department, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.  

2015             Presenter, “An Urban Ethnography of Power Relations and the Racialization of Space,” Ethnographies of Urban Public Spaces Panel, Utopias, Realities, Heritages: Ethnographies for the 21st Century, International Society for Ethnology and Folklore, Zagreb, Croatia.  

2015             Participant and organizer, “Grassroots Public History Activism: Adding the Names of Black Union Soldiers to the War Monument in an Old Southern Town,” National Council on Public History, Nashville, Tennessee.  

2014             Chair, “The Memory of Identity: Co-creating Narratives of Self-discovery in Movement,” Oral History Association, Madison, Wisconsin.  

2013             Roundtable Participant, “So, What Does Building Trust Mean, Anyway? Sharing our Interview Stories and Reflecting on the Craft of Oral History,” Oral History Association, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  

2013             Chair, “Hidden Stories as Subversive History,” Oral History Association, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  

2013             Invited Speaker, “Teaching to Listen: Approaches to Oral History,” Colloquium for the Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.  

2013             Panel Member and Panel Chair, “In the Presence of Violence and Deception: Witnessing Narratives of Survival,” International Society for Folk Narrative Research, Vilnius, Lithuania.   

2013             Speed Networking Mentor, National Council on Public History, Ottawa, Canada.  

2012             Panel Member, “The Vulnerable Listener,” Off the Record: Unspoken Negotiations in the Practice of Oral History, Oral History Association, Cleveland, Ohio.  

2012             Participant, “Capitalism and the Environment,” NCPH Working Group on Museums and Sustainability,” National Council on Public History, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Awards

2018             Oral History Association Postsecondary Teaching Award awarded to distinguished postsecondary educator involved in undergraduate, graduate, continuing, or professional education who has incorporated the practice of oral history in the classroom in an exemplary way. Awarded biannually.  

2016             Middle Tennessee State University Sabbatica...

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2018             Oral History Association Postsecondary Teaching Award awarded to distinguished postsecondary educator involved in undergraduate, graduate, continuing, or professional education who has incorporated the practice of oral history in the classroom in an exemplary way. Awarded biannually.  

2016             Middle Tennessee State University Sabbatical Award (NIA).  

2011             Faculty Research and Creative Award (FRCAC), Middle Tennessee State University Research Grant.  

2011             Texas House of Representatives Resolution 196 Honoring the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium, including the Project in Interpreting the Texas Past, for “its innovative leadership in the realm of higher education.”  http://communication.utexas.edu/ie/texas-house-resolution-honoring-uts-intellectual-entrepreneurship-consortium-0  

2010             Access and Diversity Grant, Middle Tennessee State University Research Grant.  

2008             University of Texas at Austin Orange Jackets, Week of Women, selected as inspirational female professor.  

1999-2004    Texas Parks and Wildlife for the Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.  

2003             Honorable Mention, Elli Köngäs-Maranda Prize for Monuments and Memory. Awarded by the Women’s Folklore Section, American Folklore Society, for outstanding work on women’s traditional, vernacular, and local culture and/or work on feminist theory and folklore.  

2003             Academic Innovation Award, the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, Austin, Texas.  

2002             The Houston Endowment award for the Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.  

2002             The Summerlee Foundation Grant for the Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.  

2001-2002    University of Texas Center for Instructional Technologies FAST Tex 2002 Awards for film and web production: Oral History, Engaging Audiences Through New Media.  

2001             National Endowment for the Humanities Consultation Grants Award for the Austin Women’s Commemorative Project.  

2001             University of Texas, Services for Students with Disabilities Appreciation Award.  

2000             The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Innovation Award for the Austin Women’s Commemorative Project.  

1996             American Council of Learned Societies Postdoctoral Fellowship for research and writing Monuments and Memory.  

1996             Theodore Edson Parker Foundation Award and The L.J. Skaggs and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation Award for the Lowell Monuments Project.  

1994             The 1994 Historic Preservation Book Award for The Politics of Public Memory. Awarded by Mary Washington College, Center for Historic Preservation, Fredericksburg, Virginia for having made the most significant contribution to the historic preservation movement in the United States in 1994.  

1993             National Trust for Historic Preservation for the Lowell Monuments Project.  

1990             American Association for State and Local History Certificate of Commendation for the “Shifting Gears” research project.  

1989             Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities Award for exhibit at the Gardner Heritage State Park and the Gardner Museum “Heywood-Wakefield Remembered,” for the Shifting Gears project.  

1985             The 1985 Outstanding Folklore Student Award, Indiana University.  

1983-1984    The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and the Parker Foundation to produce a documentary about women in Lowell, Massachusetts textile mills “‘And that’s how we did in the mill’: Women in the Lowell Textile Mills.” Chosen as “Best Bet” by the Boston Globe, aired on WBGH television 1984, honorable mention New England Film and Video Contest, most requested film/video at the Lowell National Historical Park 1984-1990.

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Research/Scholarly Activity

Work in Progress

I am working on two book projects. The first is a book about teaching oral history, focusing on the listening exercises I developed to teach students to listen in sensitive, nuanced ways.

My other book project is based on the narratives from the African American Oral History Project. It analyzes the lived experience of racialized and gendered space as it relates to geographies of power.

Creative Activity

Selected Oral History Projects

Recent Oral History Memoirs: Mary Winton Green (2017), John Kline (2015).

Recent Oral History Interviews: Texas Women's Historians, Contemporary Women's Lives.

Director of Recent Graduate Student Oral History Project: Nashville Task Force for Refugees and Immigrants Oral History Project (2018), Progressive Tennessee Activists Oral History Project (2017).

Director, African American Oral History Project, 2004-the pr...

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Selected Oral History Projects

Recent Oral History Memoirs: Mary Winton Green (2017), John Kline (2015).

Recent Oral History Interviews: Texas Women's Historians, Contemporary Women's Lives.

Director of Recent Graduate Student Oral History Project: Nashville Task Force for Refugees and Immigrants Oral History Project (2018), Progressive Tennessee Activists Oral History Project (2017).

Director, African American Oral History Project, 2004-the present. Project focuses on African American life histories in Texas and Tennessee in an effort to come to a deeper understanding of the important events, values, and intellectual perspectives in the lives of African Americans, and to examine the importance of race and racial identity in America. 200 life history interviews completed. Accepted for deposit at the Library of Congress.

Student Debt Oral History Project, 2015-present, oral histories on the effect of student loans on individual lives.

Listening Across Difference Oral History Project (with Ann Graham), 2009. Oral history project for different faculties in the Austin Independent School District to build trust between teachers from difference races, genders, and backgrounds.

Director, Oral History, Identity and Diversity, 2007-2008.  Directed undergraduate honors students in conducting oral history interviews with University of Texas students about their racial and ethnic identities. Archive includes fifty-five interviews  120 hours of audio.

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Special Projects

Evaluator, National Endowment for the Humanities, Digital Projects for the Public panel, 2018.

Evaluator, National Endowment for the Humanities, Public Programs Panel, 2015.

Courses

Graduate Seminars

Seminar in Public History; Oral History Theory and Methodology; Oral History Fieldwork; Interpreting and Representing Oral History and Memory; Cultural Representations of the Past; Interpreting the Oral, the Visual and the Ethnographic; Sites of Conscience, Sites of Memory

Undergraduate Courses

Oral History, Identity and Diversity; Public History; Work, Globalization and Human Rights; History of the Industrial City: Lowell, Massachusetts; Popular Culture; American History 1865 to the Present