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Awards for the best bachelor’s and master’s theses using oral history

Since 2021 the Polish Oral History Association, together with the “Remembrance and Future” Centre, has been organising a competition for the best bachelor’s and master’s theses that use oral history. Below we present the results of the third edition along with the jury’s conclusions. We would also like to thank you for the submitted works and congratulate the winners! The award ceremony will be held on November 21st at the Zajezdnia History Centre in Wrocław.

Justification of the awarding of prizes in the third edition of the Competition for the best BA and MA theses using oral history, organised by the “Remembrance and Future” Centre and the Polish Oral History Association under the auspices of the Wrocław Yearbook of Oral History.

The aim of the Competition was to select outstanding undergraduate and master’s theses, defended between 1 October 2022 and 30 September 2023, whose Authors:

  • have consciously used oral history methods in their research, accessing testimonies of witnesses to history, both self-recorded for the purpose of the work and those deposited in archival collections, carrying out an in-depth source analysis and not simply using quotations to illustrate the issues at hand,
  • and also demonstrated their knowledge and understanding of academic literature in the area of oral history.

Four undergraduate and four master’s theses were submitted in this year’s Competition.

The jury, composed of PhD Marcin Jarząbek (Chairman), PhD Katarzyna Bock-Matuszyk, Prof. Dobrochna Kałwa, Prof. Marta Kurkowska-Budzan, PhD Marek Szajda and Prof. Katarzyna Waniek, decided to award the following prizes:

In the BA thesis category:

1st prize: Maciej Zawistowski for the thesis entitled Identity in the borderland. Oral history of a community of descendants of the Czech Brothers in the vicinity of Strzelin, written under the supervision of Prof. Dobrochna Kałwa at the University of Warsaw

The work is outstanding for its high scientific level and methodological knowledge. Maciej Zawistowski skilfully collected oral history sources, which he critically analysed. They were efficiently used in the narrative, not only for illustration, but were also analysed and confronted with other sources. The author was able to draw his own conclusions and set them in the wider context of research on the Western and Northern Territories. He used a post-memory perspective in these studies. Another aspect that is worthy of note is the appropriately selected literature on the subject, including works in three foreign languages.

2nd prize: Julia Mazurek for her thesis entitled The beginnings of women’s football in Poland: the experience and identity of the female players of Czarne Sosnowiec in biographical narratives, written under the supervision of PhD Jakub Muchowski at the Jagiellonian University

The work attracted attention with unusual oral histories – stories of female footballers that Julia Mazurek had collected. The author skilfully managed to use the material she gathered and create from it an interesting story about a widely unknown women’s sports team from the communist period. The jury recognised the author’s workshop consciousness, as well as the convincing ability to place the stories of her sportswomen in selected methodological approaches: identity and feminist studies. An additional strength of the work is its language and dynamic narrative, which is the result of adopting the biographical perspective of the individual female interviewees in the subsequent chapters.

Distinction: Anna Szostak for her thesis entitled Discourse of oral history in participatory historiography, written under the supervision of Prof. Ewa Solska at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin

The Jury appreciated the ambitious and innovative approach taken to oral history in terms of theory of history. The author showed the relationship between oral history and history in public sphere, applied history, rescue history pointing in particular to the different dimensions of participation that are present in oral history.

In the MA thesis category:

1st prize: Dominika Cieplak, Kamil Federyga for the thesis entitled White Water. The pain of memory, written under the supervision of Prof. Piotr Winskowski at the Krakow University of Technology

Although the authors of this work are two architects, it is a fully interdisciplinary work, successfully demonstrating how the contributions of oral history, ethnographic and historical research, cultural studies and architecture can be combined. The way in which oral history has been used by the authors is a model: for researchers, for practitioners, for communities and for local policies. In it, the voice of the witnesses to history is both a source of information and as such stands at the centre of the project. In the descriptive part, this is the first study of the history of White Water (Biała Woda); in the analytical part, the chapters on memory and oblivion, trauma and pain, which are a great justification for the architectural enterprise, are perfectly juxtaposed. The work is erudite and excellently prepared on the documentary side, written with great academic and literary language.

The jury decided not to award a second prize and a distinction in this category.