A Critique on the Oral History of the Imposed War? Disadvantages & Needs?

Mohammad Doroudian
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

2019-09-04


Oral History as a method, despite being intertwined with the narrative culture in Iranian history, has been attended to through the development of oral history in the West since the 1970s. The people who left Iran after the Revolution, initiated the oral history project of the Revolution under the influence of the development of oral history culture in the West in order to preserve their identity and boundaries with the Revolution and the system that emerged from it. This development led to the consideration of oral history as a method and its application in the field of the Revolution and War history. These considerations are important because they affect the nature and orientation and even the oral history method.

The notion that others would confiscate the history of the Revolution, or that the generation that created this era of history, would gradually lose its historical memory or die, awakened a wave of the Revolution oral history dialogues. In the field of the imposed War, the approach to oral history is somewhat different. In this area, rather than being part of the oral history events, the focus is on the roles through cultural and social approach. For this reason, the popular body of the soldiers and their families were replaced by prominent commanders. Continuing this process, the oral history of the commanders was initiated by the Sacred Defense Documents and Research Center at the initiative of the late Dr. Hossein Ardestani. Despite extensive dialogues, there are not many works published in this field to assess and evaluate its credibility and effectiveness.

The purpose of this introduction was to raise the question of what is the effect of oral history method on historical research and clarification of historical facts? I will examine the answer to the question in the field of war historiography, because the oral history of war, with its influence on the oral history of the revolution, has implications that need to be criticized for its purposes and method:

 

  1. The method in oral history, builds on the basis of its oral narration, but the main subject is history. Historiography, due to its all-encompassing attitude and attention to all documents, leads to the discovery of historical facts, while in oral history, such an outcome is not achieved. Because oral history is not subject-based, it is based on the mentality and narrative of individuals.
  2. Oral history creates history with no critical and analytical questions based on the statements narrated by individuals. Inaccurate and sometimes exaggerated statements about the role of individuals in events, without criticizing it, are more about history than about revealing historical issues.
  3. Multiplication of the narratives of historical events and issues, because of differences in roles, denies the possibility of clarifying historical facts for those who were not present at the event. Because instead of using methodical and in-depth research by an impartial historian of historical events, different statements of individuals and its authority for narrating history make it difficult not only for individuals but also for historians to reach the reality. With this explanation, what to do?

Since oral history as a developed method has provided a new opportunity for historical narratives, its careful application may open new possibilities for historical research that are at least subject to three basic conditions:

  1. The oral history of the Iran-Iraq War will be pursued in a critical-thematic manner, with due consideration of other statements in the field, to avoid unilateral, exaggerated or misleading reporting, and to provide a research characteristic.
  2. Works published in the field of oral history with the people present at the event should be criticized and defaults should be identified. Such a method would improve the prose and refine new approaches.
  3. The reference of the dialogue should divert from memory which fades in time to the credible documents. For this purpose, the dialogues might be pursued based on diaries or available documents.


 
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