Production of the Best Oral History Works

How are delightful books written from oral history interviews?

Interviewer: Atieh Mohammadi
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian

2020-12-01


Hedayatullah Behboudi is one of the founders of the Literature and Art of Resistance Department and one of the pioneers in the field of oral history, whose name is associated with oral history books. In a short, exclusive interview with the Oral History website, he spoke about the points that make oral history interviews a masterpiece. This interview can be read as follow:

 

Dear Mr. Behboudi, what is your simple definition of oral history?

Oral history is a relatively recent and new form of event reporting. Since it doesn’t have the difficulties of conventional historical research, and also, as it has a larger audience than the other products of its family, more attentions is paid to it.

 

What points should be considered to produce the best works in the field of oral history?

The production of better and more lasting products in the field of oral history is necessarily based on historiographical experiences. In this area, three principles can be noted:

  1. Unity in production: The usual procedure of organizations and centers where produce works of oral history is to conduct and archive interviews with the figures in question in a continuous and serial way, and then to decide on its formulation and publication at appropriate times. In this process, the interviewer and compiler are usually not one person. The result of such division in work among more people is a reduction in the necessary mastery in processing and editing the work, and naturally, the loss of significant data. Therefore, the process should be unified, and only one person will be dominant on the work from the beginning to the end. Through creating the necessary relationships and connections for better formulation, the unity helps obtaining the most information from the interviewee.
  2. The interviewer and the compiler should be equipped with conversation technique and historical knowledge; Experiences and observations show that the interviewer is usually a good listener. He/she does not go into the details of the topics presented by the interviewee and does not feel obligated to ask more detailed questions, to critique the statements and to guide the interviewee to a direction where is as close to the truth as possible. The reason is that it is carried out mainly through administrative affairs, and those who are hired for this purpose often do so without being equipped with historical topics and oral history techniques; so, they are not able to do fact-checking and to verify the data. Therefore, the interviewer should be equipped with the conversation techniques, historical knowledge related to the subject of the interview, and extracting information from the interviewee in the best way. Otherwise, the work produced will not be a valid one.
  3. Choosing the best topics and avoiding picking up the aforementioned events.

 

The important, privileged and unspoken topics should to chosen. In the first two or three decades of the revolution, perhaps, we may have been able to narrate historical issues in the form of oral history, but in the fifth decade of the revolution, we shouldn’t select every a subject or event which was dealt with previously. This means that research centers in charge of producing oral history works should improve their taste and not seek to produce more works with a small budget, but a limited budget should be spent on top works to find more readers.

Finally, it is well to be mentioned that the field of historiography- and here oral history - has gone through a period of trial and error in our country and has reached a professional stage. Non-university research centers, which are the main in charge of oral history in the country, can contribute to the production of the best works in this field by observing these three principles.



 
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