Oral History Project

About The Project

Bourj al-Barajneh Camp, Beirut, Lebanon

In January 2010, a group of youth from Bourj al-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon met to discuss a cultural project they would soon undertake.  Chairing the meeting were Ms. Kholoud Hussein, a camp resident with a long history of assisting researchers, and Rosemary Sayigh, anthropologist and oral historian.

The youth who attended decided to do an oral history recording project with the remaining elders of the camp community—known as the ‘generation of Palestine.’ They chose three particular topics for their interviews: 1) village customs and traditions; 2) special dishes and accents: 3) village economies and relations with towns.

The members of the first team of interviewers were: Eman Hajj; Naifi Hussein; Samah Hussein; Mustafa Khalil; Mohammad Mustafa; and Farah Shehadeh (see their profiles below). All are studying either at university or a technical training college, and some also work part time.  They began with training workshops with the help of Mahmoud Zeidan and Bushra Moghribi, both of whom have had long experience recording the experiences and memories of Palestinians in Lebanon. The team developed questionnaires and were ready to begin their oral history projects.

Kholoud Hussein, who has an exceptional knowledge of the residents of Bourj al-Barajneh due to her prior work with academic researchers, helped the team find individuals from different villages willing to record their memories. She also guided them through their first recording sessions. She took photos of those elders who permitted this, and later presented the speakers with bound copies of their interview, with their personal photos.

Once the recordings were completed the researchers transcribed and typed them. Through a workshop facilitated by the library of the American University of Beirut, and led by volunteer Hazem Jamjoum, the team created a website to display their research: Hekayat Jdudna.   

Financial support for the project – to cover the cost of recorders, typing, printing, transport, coordination, etc. – was provided by a local donor. The Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia supported the translation of the interviews into English. Both Arabic and English versions are displayed on the project website.

With the completion of the recordings, the team held an evaluation workshop. They also decided to carry out a second recording project on marriage and the way this key institution has changed since the ‘days of Palestine.’ This second round of interviews was completed in August 2011 and the translation work is ongoing. The members of this research team are: Hassan Awad; Eman Hajj; Samah Hussein; Mohammad Mustafa; Farah Shehadeh; Farah Wa’riya.     

Written by Kholoud Hussein and Rosemary Sayigh

The team of young oral historians will carry out a third recording project in September 2012, extending their research on change in marriage customs beyond Bourj Barajneh to three other camps in Lebanon (Ain Helwh, Wavell/Jalil, Baddawi).



Meet the Young Oral Historians and Read their interviews