Reading Oral Histories For Empathy: Using Wuhan COVID Lockdown Oral Histories In The Classroom

  • Robert Browning (Wayne State University)


During the past two years, I conducted an oral history project focusing on the COVID-19 lockdowns in Wuhan, China in early 2020. The citizens there faced a lockdown that lasted for seventy-six days. The outbreak then escalated into a pandemic with effects all around the world. Many existing oral history projects appropriately focused on what happened in the US. However, it is necessary to know and remember what happened to those individuals in the place where it began rather than only following narratives of both Chinese and Western media.

The goal of this oral history project is twofold. First, the recording of the voices and stories of those who directly experienced these traumatic events. After carrying out background research, fifteen individuals were interviewed. Of this group there were eight men and seven women. Interviewees include Wuhan natives; long term Chinese residents of Wuhan; those who were trapped outside of Wuhan during this time but resided there and foreigners living there at the time. As the project is still in process, the next step is to describe and process the interviews and transcripts, which will be held at the Walter Reuther Library at Wayne State University. The final step of the project is to write a published article or develop an exhibit.

The second and most important aspect of the project is to consider how they can be used as an instructional tool to provide accessibility to them. The presentation about the project then will examine both how the project was conducted and then show how the interviews can be used by both teachers and students. Some of the interviews can teach how trauma has shaped interpretations of past experience and should be sensitively presented in the classroom. To accomplish this, methods will be shared so the interviews can be utilized effectively and provide ways to show how to read and talk about these kinds of oral histories. By doing so, the goal would be to build an understanding and awareness and empathy for experiences that may be similar or different from our own.

How to Cite:

Browning, R., (2023) “Reading Oral Histories For Empathy: Using Wuhan COVID Lockdown Oral Histories In The Classroom”, MAC Annual Meeting Presentations 2023(1).



Published on
14 Apr 2023