Oral History of Laborers

Morteza Noorayi (PhD)
Translated by Natali Haghverdian


In the 60s, when oral history was stepping up, women, workers, and those deprived of education became central to the reconstruction of the silent past and the lost worlds. For nearly three decades, and then up to date, in different orders of priority in oral history, these social strata have played a major role in the work of oral historians of the industrial community.

Industrial, agricultural and service workers in all its forms have been the silent backbone of the economy and production of the society. Undoubtedly, their appearance in the society has advantages and it serves equal justice. Planning for any kind for the economy inevitably returns to the logical, healthy, and correct organization of this stratum. Therefore, the retrieval and recount of their up-and-coming past in workshops, factories, farms and markets has an important contribution to optimizing the work and production process. This group has never been given the opportunity to write about themselves and never has been motivated or empowered to do so. The presence of historians alongside this group as the speaking voice of the past can at all times promote and progress the mission of historians and their interest in social history.

In the more or less wider spectrum of oral history in the country, there is little valid and documented work has been done covering this social group. Negligence does not mean that this group does not exist. This group has no access to financial resources for research. Then, it is the duty of institutions and organizations involved in the field. However, in the production of the oral historians there is no sign of concern concerning this group; what shall be done? Such efforts usually leave the scholars and researchers involved unnoticed and they’re never officially appreciated and there are no allocated funds to cover their expenses; what shall be done?

The benefit of this, of course, in all three levels of short, medium and long-term investment for industry owners, employers, planners, legislators, etc. is significant. There might be documented planning outside social research circles for such efforts however the visibility of labor and laborers in the urban and rural life in Iran are not compatible and shall not be replicated for foreign models. Labor and laborer is a national plan and requires collective will particularly in oral history arena; this is an affair for ministries, even municipalities shall contribute is these efforts. Planned efforts shall be organized by scientific poles to emphasize the importance of this concept. It is also recommended for the Oral History Association to have annual meetings on the subject.

The vast majority of the oral history enthusiasts shall be aware that the oral history of the workers and laborers has been the product of passion which includes diverse and intriguing concepts. Nevertheless, the approach adopted in these interviews follows a different pattern. The interview approach with this group of the society is fundamentally different from the usual approaches. Monotonous daily life and tight livelihood leaves no happy season in their mind. Hence, times are similar and history is a daily account to escape the current situation. So, the priority is with group interviews; in light of this, in group interviews the workers and laborers correct one another and give clarity and meaning to the times and incidents. It seems that in such interviews the interviewers have to be in groups of two or three to cover all bases and keep the pace up. Obviously, the interviewers should be well versed in the expressions of labor and laborers. Open questions and subject based projects are recommended.[1]


[1] Notes of Morteza Noorayi(PhD), Isfahan University history professor and head of Iranian local history association written on 25 March 2018 in the University of Sofia, Bulgaria and submitted to the Oral History Association.

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