Biannual Journal of Oral History

We Have Not Yet Approached a Common Expression in Oral History Practice

Shima Donyadar Rostami
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


Gholamreza Azizi, director of NLAI's Research Institute, talked to the Iranian Oral History Website's correspondent about some weaknesses that oral history field faces, "books which are published in field of oral history show that we haven't still reached a common language in oral history practice and there has not been still a common understanding. The reason for this is that oral history has not yet been accepted as a scientific discipline in universities. If it was, classic resources for oral history would be written, edited, and translated earlier.

He continued, "While some works have been published in field of translation of basics of oral history, these resources have not yet been able to create homogeneity among oral history practitioners.
Expressing that we are dealing with different ways of publishing oral history works, Editor in chief of biannual journal of "Oral History" stated, "One of the reasons for difference in how the works are published is referred to how oral history interviews are conducted. There are also different interpretations of compiling in works of field of oral history. Sometimes, in formulation oral history interviews, it is considered as raw materials that could be shaped like a pottery mud. These compilers have done whatever they want in oral history interviews.

He continued, "Some also considered it as a document. In this sense, the compiler tries to present exactly what happens and manipulate it slightly. It is not possible to say exactly which of these methods is correct, since we have not still arrived in a same understanding of needed memories of oral history, and we do not follow a particular theory in issue of type of publishing oral history interviews.

Azizi talked about manner of publishing oral history, "If we should admit how many types of publications we have, we should consider how many kinds of interview outputs of oral history we could have?" Is it necessary to publish an interview contextually, should interview be considered as a raw material, and should it be restored, or should it be used as a source of research and to be published?

He noted, "If any of these three types of oral history works were conducted, then the question arises that should we choose different names for its format? Or should they all be considered and published in very oral history format?

According to head of Document's Research Institute, "if we look at published works, we find out that all authors of the field think that they are doing the same thing. Oral history works are usually published with titles like "oral memories", "oral history", and "interview with …" and we see that all interviewers have used nearly the same methods but have had different interpretations. Some people think that because their interviews are similar to oral history, then output of their work in any way is still in form of oral history."

Then he added, "The biggest problem is that there is lack of understanding due to lack of scientific discussion in this area. I do not want to say that all should use the same method. For example, documentary films are sometimes produced based on oral history interviews. This documentary based on oral history is published in form of a video survey. If I see the documentary based on oral history interview as a result of a research process that results in a video, what is its format? If this is done in form of sound, what could we call it? Our problem is that various forms that are published based on oral history all are also called "Oral History". We do not have a specific name for each of these formats.

Emphasizing on the fact that we still do not have a single classification of outputs of works which are based on oral history, editor in chief of biannual journal of "oral history" told, "I believe that we can have various outputs from an oral history source. Definitions are important because of clarifying our path in manner of performing oral history. We have worked very well in field of "interview" but we have thought that it is only enough to have a tape recorder to do it while there is still no consensus that which interview is "oral history", "active", "deep", "structured" etc.

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