PAPER SESSION 1 – TUESDAY 24 Aug, 9–11am (UTC +8)
P1.1 – Concepts and Practices in Oral History
Anthonimuthu Selvam (India) Oral History, Ethics and the Law
The definition of Oral History, Ethics and Legality are intertwined as one sets to precedent to other and influences each other for the well documentation of oral history interview. Ethics are based on moral principles to identify series of well thought out planning of oral history with flexible norms of either structured or semi-structured or non-structed interview to bear the fruit of expected and established facts for further rediscovery of the past.
As far as legality of the oral history interview is concerned, this is in relation to three components which are inseparable in documentation of oral history as a primary source material and its uses. They are Interviewer or the research institution to which Interviewer is associated, Interviewee one who donate the source material in the form of the transcript of the oral history interview and the last is the scholar one who uses it in pursuing his or her research work. Those legal aspects which would enable and facilitate for smooth functioning or methodology of conducting oral history interview as well as facilitating scholars utilizing the final product of the oral history transcript as primary sources. The Interviewer or research institution to which Interviewer is attached should be conversant with legal features associated with the Interviewee, who is the contributor, and the Scholar who is going to use the transcript of the oral history interview.
Therefore, the paper delves upon the Oral History which comes under the ambits of ethics and legality in relation to oral history as it flows from moral principles of eliciting information with conscious mind without any ambiguity as for as Interviewee is concerned in creating primary source material through oral history with conditional operatives of legality which enshrined in respective country’s set of principles governing the laws.
Anthonimuthu Selvam, former Research Officer, Oral History Project, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, India, started in 1966, and he functioned in various capacities as Senior Research Assistant, Assistant Research Officer and as Research Officer from 1981 to 2014; Co-Ordinator of NMML (2017-20); Member, IOHA (2019-23).
Keywords: audio editing software; bios; breaks of recordings; embargo of information; ethics; file management; first-hand information; laws; legal heirs; oneness; online access; oral history; preservation; primary source; publications; transcription; uniqueness of oral history; witness in court proceedings
Hanis Diyana Kamarudin (Malaysia) Developing Oral History Collections: The Importance of Trust
Oral history is one of the essential techniques to capture the past history, where it often captures perspectives and experiences not recorded elsewhere. Anyone involved in an oral history programme needs to be suitably sensitive to the community’s needs, and have an emphasis on being honest and open. The erosion of trust occurs when there is no mutual understanding between the interviewers and interviewees involved. Discussions with the potential community are required to ensure a smooth transmission; which indirectly maintains an ethical relationship. Clear and perceivable guidelines for approaching a community are needed as it is crucial to assess the community’s preferences and rights. This paper will discuss ethical considerations in recording oral history based on the experience of expert informants, oral history practitioners and cultural institutions’ professionals. Finally, this paper will highlight the possible strategies to overcome the ‘trust’ issues in developing community oral history collections.
Hanis Diyana Kamarudin teaches oral history as part of Records Management Programme at the Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. She served as Deputy Secretary of the Malaysian Oral History Association from 2013 until 2015. She is delighted to be part of the Malaysian Oral History Association, which brings academic researchers and industry partners together to record, share and archive oral history. She obtained her PhD from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
Keywords: community; ethics; interview; local contents; oral history; trust
Andrew Sturt & Kathleen M. Ryan (USA) Revisiting ‘Homefront Heroines’: The Tension Inherent in States of ‘Doneness’ in Mediated Oral History Projects
When is a project done? It’s a provocative question frequently part of oral history discussions; at recent Oral History Association meetings, mini-workshops were held asking “what does done look like”?
We interrogate this question though the web-based documentary Homefront Heroines: The WAVES of World War II. Here, “done” was tied to a specific temporal event: the 75th anniversary of the end of the war. The project was initially completed in 2013, but revised, expanded, and relaunched in 2020. IT uses oral histories to tell the story of women who served in the United States Navy and Coast Guard.
The revision not only includes adding new multimedia content (digitized historical film, edited videos, expert interviews, photographs, etc.) but also newly edited oral histories features as well as a fully searchable OHMS database of full transcripts/audio/video of the 51 interviews that made up the project. It allows the authors to take advantage of new technology and innovations which can make the online documentary itself more complete.
Instead of a tightly prescribed narrative, the project will allow visitors to explore at their own pace, doing deep dives into information where desired. Thus the project has the potential to truly exhibit both the “shared authority” demanded of feminist oral history (Chase and Bell, 1994), as well as the agency for former audience members to co-create of meaning and content via interactive documentary platforms (Ashton, Guadenzi, and Rose, 2017). Through a self-reflexive analysis of the harmony and disharmony found within the revision process, the paper offers oral historians insights into the practicality of the concept of “doneness.”
Andrew Sturt is a PhD candidate in Journalism Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. He holds a Master of Science degree from Temple University in sport business with an emphasis on marketing. Additionally, he holds a Bachelor of Art in communication from University of Colorado Denver. Sturt’s research merges autoethnography with oral history interviews and literary journalism as an alternative art-practice based approach of inquiry in journalism studies.
Kathleen M. Ryan is a documentary filmmaker and Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her hybrid work focuses on transformations in storytelling and oral history due to shifting media technologies. Specifically, she explores the intersection of theory and praxis within evolving media forms such as the interactive documentary. Her projects deal with issues of gender, self-identity, visuality and user/ participant agency. She holds a PhD in communication and society from the University of Oregon, an MA in broadcast journalism from the University of Southern California, and a BA in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Keywords: feminism; interactive documentary; shared authority; technology; World War II
Sumallya Mukhopadhyay (India) ‘[A]ll time is eternally present’: Conceptualising Time in Oral History Narratives
Oral history provides a framework to reread, reinterpret and reconstruct history, focusing on individuals who have witnessed an event of enduring socio-political significance (Perks, 1998). The proposed paper pursues one such event, namely, the 1947 Bengal Partition. Leaning on fieldwork experience, it studies seven oral history narratives of individuals from different class, caste and gender background who were rendered homeless when they migrated under situational duress from East Pakistan to Bengal, India. By doing so, it looks at time to bring together these individuated narratives in a harmonious frame to perspectivize a communitarian understanding of refugee experience in Bengal. Since the interview is conducted almost seventy years after the event, it obviously means that the narratives pertain to time past. However, in the interview space shared between the narrator and the interviewer, time gets negotiated in various forms. Chronological displacement, what Portelli terms “horizontal shift” in narration, depicts how time gets overlapped as narrators often intertwine one episode with another (1990: 41). Oral narratives do not follow a straightforward mode of recollection; they move back and forth, underscoring that time present remains suspended during the interview. These narratives are co-created between the narrator and the interviewer (Sheftel & Zembrzycki, 2013), and reminiscence of ancestral homeland punctuates the narrative with nostalgia and time gets fixated in 1947. Often family members remember some episodes; it suggests that time remains in a continuum where narratives of displacement get percolated from one generation to another. Intergenerational re-telling makes these narratives timeless, creating a community of shared memory and history, echoing T.S. Eliot that “all time is eternally present.” The paper intends to establish that the blending of multiple voices and their perspectives through the framework of oral history can help in conceptualising time past and time present, memory and history which is always present.
Sumallya Mukhopadhyay is doing his PhD from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. His area of interest includes, among other things, the politics of dispossession in narratives related to the Bengal Partition (1947-1970). He is a “student member” of International Oral History Association. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Keywords: community; interview; memory; narration; oral history; partition; refugee; time
Samir Ketf & Saeideh Mahrami (Iran) Smart Interview, Technology, and Solving the Challenges in an Interview
Humans confront different sweet and bitter events during their lives. Talking about past bitter events is difficult in oral history interviews about wars. The interviewers’ trouble is reviewing and reminding all the memories of wars, fluent and without spiritual challenges for the interviewee.
Iran’s nation experienced two great political, cultural and social changes during a short period of time: Islamic revolution and the eight-year war with Iraq. Each single event can be a reason to make “shock and spiritual challenge” in people.
It is proved that destructive effects of war remain in the human’s mind more than other events. The anxiety caused by reminding the past bitter events is called PTSD and interviewing with the people who suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or the people who have bitter memories is not an easy case because they resist reminding memories unconsciously.
In this article, after studying the effects of war on Iranian fighters and injured people’s lives, we introduce a new method of interviewing which is called ”smart interview”. Using this method, the oral historian can make a better verbal communication with the narrator.
In this method with recognizing oral history, psychology, electronic, the performance of mental frequencies, the five senses and their effect on memory, we have tried to reduce the effect of bitter memories especially in the field of war without blemishing interview principles of oral history and put the narrator in the best and the most relaxing possible condition to have more fluent and more reliable interviews about war facts and related events.
Samir Ketf is an electrical engineer, while Saeideh Mahrami holds an MA in English language teaching. Saeideh is the representative for Asia in IOHA. Both of them have published an oral history book titled The Sun of Hesar, and have participated in oral history conferences (with article presentations) in Iran (2012), India (IOHA 2016), and Finland (IOHA 2018).
Keywords: effects of war; interview; methodology; mental frequencies; oral history; PTSD; smart; technology