Furthermore, the relationship between oral historians and the people they interviewed . There are numerous fine examples of BME oral history projects. . This includes exploring the gendering of memory and the past-present dialogic. Alessandro Portelli in 'What makes oral history different'(45), first published in Interviews in Oral History. Oral history interviews can be defined as audio- or video-recorded biographical nar- . aware of the “dialogical relationship” in oral history, where the “sources are not found, Portelli, Alessandro A Dialogical. An Approach to Oral History Alessandro Portelli 1. . Relationship: dialogue All of this means that oral history is a listening art. so you could very well . Thus. may not be “History” as they have been taught to define it. women's hospital.
But for one thing, people want to know what you know, how much you know. But you know, people talked about living in coal camps, and I always pointed out that I grew up in a company village myself. Which was very different; it was not a slum or anything but certain things we had in common. I know what it means to have the time of your life marked by the whistle, by the factory whistle. I know what it means. And I know what it means to be — well, to be in an enclosed space, so they could relate to that.
The interviewee brings up topics based on their perception of who you are. In a way, the interview is always about the interviewer. One of the things that make the interviews interesting is when people realize your otherness, which means that they have to explain themselves to a total — to somebody who cannot take for granted anything.
So my formula is: Then what happens after the interview is over? I mean, I have no institution to back me. But their children and grandchildren do. Can I have it? Can I see it? A lot of people do see, though, your work as being very foundational in the field of oral history.
In particular, I know this book, The Death of Luigi Trastulli — everybody knows this books; everybody uses this book. What do you see as your contributions to the field? Or not changing the paradigm; expanding the paradigm. So rather than a change in paradigm, talking about an expansion of paradigm.
In my case it came from linguistics, from literature.The Dialogic Approach to Counselling: Working in the Dialogue
In the case of Luisa Passerini it came from psychology; and Dennis Tedlock from anthropology. We also, I think, helped make oral history much more — not interdisciplinary: You have a toolbox with a number of tools, and you pick the one you need for the specific case. So again, it was about the relationship. It goes back to what Luisa Passerini says about silences: What do you think has been your most difficult interview to sit and listen to?
Again, it depends on what you mean by difficult. There have been a couple of interviews where I just sat and listened. And one was with one of my students who had been — Junethere was three big days of demonstrations in Genoa over the G8 meeting. The police went berserk and a young man was killed, and she was there.
And again I sat for 45 minutes listening to her. They were difficult in that I was made speechless.
- Alessandro Portelli
They were easy in that the stories kept pouring. What do you see as the unique contribution oral history can make to our understanding of history? I think it has to do with telling us what the past means to the present, in addition to all the usual things that we always say, which are correct. So the tree makes a sound. I think this is fairly unique. By all means, absolutely.
I wanted to be a writer. In fact, I spent a year in high school in Los Angeles and I was very good at writing essays. And I remember this teacher who made a comment on one of my essays: And number two, you have to write about things you know in depth, and because we middle-class intellectuals only know in-depth the very uninteresting world of middle-class intellectuals: Number three, all the characters would end up speaking like me.
So oral history is a perfect answer to this! I get my stories; I get my characters; I get their different styles of speech. And everybody says I built the books like novels.
Pier Paolo Pasolini was very controversial. He was communist, homosexual; he was a poet, he was a critic of contemporary society.
Alessandro Portelli | Oral History Centre
And his first novels were set in the lumpen-proletariat neighbourhoods in Rome. It was a scandal because he used their language, including the cuss words and things. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the field of oral history?
Do something you like. This diversity was reflected in the development of the Oral History Society in the early s. Within 20 years a growing number of practitioners were helping to develop a new range of topics that would include histories of art, science, land rights, business and even garden design. Influenced by developments in women's historyespecially in the s and s, oral historians in Britain also began to explore the historical construction of identities.
So, by the s oral historians were engaged in black and ethnic minority historieslesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender histories and the history of medicine. The Oral History Society, through its activities, continues to involve a wide spectrum of individuals.
While this has resulted at points in tensions between academic and community oral historians, the Society maintains a commitment to inclusiveness and a rejection of a narrow professionalisation. Above all else the Society also continues to encourage people to engage in making histories through the use of oral history. Back to the top Developments in oral history theory In its early development oral history was influenced by wider debates that were occurring at the time within social historywomen's history and labour history.
In the s and s many oral historians were combining ' history from below ' with the aim of providing a voice for those who would otherwise be 'hidden from history'. Both 'history from below' and 'uncovering hidden histories' have increasingly been critiqued by oral historians themselves as inadequate in democratising the production of histories. However, the twin commitments have remained significant to oral history practitioners. Oral historians, especially in the early years, tended to prioritise collecting older people's memories.
At the same time insights into the way people remember and the value of remembering were being gained from members of the emerging reminiscence movement. Here gerontological work on memory and studies on ageing more broadly proved influential. Oral historians have also been inspired by criticisms made by academic historians. This resulted in a number of different responses. The first rejoinder was to continue to popularise oral history through community-based initiatives and the media.
In this phase oral historians began to think of ways in which remembering the past and collecting memories could be empowering for those they researched.
Furthermore, the relationship between oral historians and the people they interviewed became an important consideration in the collection and subsequent analyses of testimonies. Such considerations of empowerment and intersubjectivity led in turn to the concept of ' shared authority '. The second response was to develop how oral historians understood narrative and memory. For some, including Al Thompson, 6 this has been the most significant change in oral history.
Oral History - Articles - Making History
It is worth noting that this phase coincided with the increasing exchange of ideas internationally. As well as the major journals, which include the Oral History Review in the United States and Oral History in Britainthe development of oral history has been well served by the Perks and Thomson edited Oral History Readernow in its second edition.
Making 'history from below' for oral historians has a number of significant meanings. While most history was, and some might argue continues to be, written from elite points of view, an early aim of oral historians was to collect memories that would bring new perspectives to understandings of the past. In Britain the History Workshop movement, which explicitly championed feminist and labour history, was important in sustaining the development of an oral history that was interested in recording the voices of the less powerful.
That is the majority. Thus from the first issues of Oral History the recorded memories under discussion were collected from a wide variety of individuals and groups not normally found in history journals at the time. In the mid s there were articles on 'Women's work in the Yorkshire inshore fishing industry'; 9 'The rural publican and his business in East Kent before '; 10 and 'Jazz bands of North East England'.
The idea of creating 'history from below' which can be traced to the Annales School meant thinking in part about who was 'hidden from history'. But oral historians were also considering the different ways historical consciousness developed as a result of life history experiences.
So, for example, early issues of Oral History carried articles on families and childhood in which children were portrayed as active actors in history an idea that would take another 30 years to be discovered by mainstream sociology. Oral historians did not, however, just want to chart the lives of non-elites and their disempowerment, but they wanted to record instances of resistance and acquiescence. They wanted to record successful and unsuccessful attempts to make change by the less powerful in society.
And 'history from below' also meant encouraging a wider participation in the production of history. In addition to 'shifting the focus and opening new areas of inquiry Sheila Rowbotham's memorable phrase 13 was taken up by oral historians and has proved to be an important and enduring influence.
Although Rowbotham did not use oral history she was a major inspiration for those who did, including Jill Liddington and Jill Norris. Although associated with labour historyoral historians were much more likely to reach beyond the trade union organiser and into areas that included the unorganised and even as far as conservative and deferent members of the working class.
The diverse contributions that can be found in the journal were also present in the Society's public events. Early conference themes included oral tradition and dialect, the First World War, work, local history, street culture, oral history on radio in partnership with the BBC and in the classroom, the International Brigade and women's history.
Community, museum and county record office initiatives were also in evidence.
The making of oral history: Sections 1–2
Through its annual conferences and a seminar series the Society continues explicitly to explore new areas and engage new audiences. In the s and s similar projects were being undertaken across Europe, including in Italy, Australia, Israel and across Latin America as well as North America. And this was also reflected in contributions in Oral Historywhich at the time included articles from or about Eire, Sweden, Canada and parts of Africa.
And here again the focus was on the lives of those people who were either under-represented or missing from traditional historiography. The 'News from abroad' and 'Current British work' sections remain important parts of the journal reporting on community-based as well as academic research. Back to the top Oral history and labour history While History Workshop identified itself as 'a journal of socialist historians' and later for socialist and feminist historians, Oral History never did.
Nonetheless the influences of both socialist and feminist writings are evident in the making of oral history. In the s a number of labour historians were using oral history to uncover the otherwise undocumented lives of working-class people.
In addition, the ideas of other socialist historians who were not undertaking oral history work also proved important.
So, for example, the writings of C. From the mid s and into the s an affinity grew up between individuals associated with History Workshop and Oral History Leading members of both movements often shared activities, including working in local projects and activities aimed at enabling working-class people to investigate their histories. One obvious and significant difference between oral historians and labour historians was that oral historians never exclusively limited their attention to the working class.
Oral history and black and ethnic minority history 'People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them' 16 In Spring the Oral History journal in a 'Black history' edition featured articles on West Indian migration by Elizabeth Thomas-HopeWest Indian communities in Brixton by Donald HindsPakistani life histories in Manchester by Pnina Werbnerand an overview of 'Black labour' by Harry Goulbourne. This includes, as well as a special edition on ethnicity and identity in18 Shaheeda Hosein on marriage and divorce among West Indian women in Trinidad19 Susan Burton on cross-cultural interviewing of Japanese women in Britain, 20 and Jelena Cvorovic on gypsy oral history in Serbia.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender histories In contrast to BME oral history, gay and lesbian lives have been less well represented in the Oral History However, articles have included Gavin Brown's 'Listening to queer maps of the city: Fashionable gay masculinity and the shopping experience, London, —early s'.
The project culminated in two books. These tended to be centred on community -based projects. Brighton OursStory, for example, produced Daring Hearts: Lesbian and Gay lives of 50s and 60s Brighton.
Queer is Here included oral history recordings from the Hall Carpenter Archive. Oral history and history: Even those researching topics mainly involving elites that were within living memory were loath to admit to using oral sources.
Oral historians responded in a number of ways. Some argued for combining oral testimonies with other historical sources, often testing memories for reliability and validity. Others argued for the uniqueness of memory and in doing so furthered oral historians' critical understanding of memory and narrative.
Many of those engaged in community oral history in the mid s continued to point out the biases inherent in most documentary materials that survived for historians to use.