The 7th virtual meeting of Iranian oral history

Principles, Frameworks and Standards of Conducting Oral History - 1

Compiled by: Iranian Oral History Website
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad

2022-10-11


Note: The 7th oral history meeting was held at the Clubhouse and Tarikhgar Rome on Saturday, December 23, 2021 under the management and hosting of Dr. Mehdi Farahani Monfared and performed by Mrs. Mosffa. In this meeting, Dr. Abolfazl Hassanabadi, Morteza Rasoulipour, Dr. Habibullah Esmaili and Dr. Mehdi Abolhasani Targhee spoke about the issue of oral history standards in theory and practice.

Mrs. Mosffa said at the beginning of the program: As in the series of previous meetings, the standards of conducting oral history were always sporadically mentioned, the topic of tonight's meeting has been especially dedicated to the category of standards of conducting oral history, which will be discussed by the esteemed guests.

Then Dr. Hassanabadi was invited to start the discussion.

Dr. Hassanabadi: something that I will discuss it in the first few minutes of this program is about the standards of conducting oral history and what is its generality and importance and what is its history in the world and in Iran? The debate on the formation of oral history standards in the world was formed twenty years after the emergence of oral history in today's sense. The so-called first period of oral history in the decades of the 60s to the 70s in the world is known as interviews gradually by individuals, institutions and centers, which were followed up by support projects and entered by universities. In the sixties, independent researchers and private universities also entered this field. Even the supporting institutions entered the oral history discussion in the world during this period.

Until 1967, when the World Association of Oral History was formed in America in order to discuss the relationship between institutions and centers, as well as the interaction between them, and its headquarters is still in America. We also have an international oral history association called the International Oral History Association, which does not have a specific location. Like the Comprehensive Oral History Association which is in America and holds its meetings in America every year. This international forum is held every year in one region and one continent of the world, and next year it will be held in Argentina.

At first, international associations and then gradually national oral history associations, regional oral history associations and also local oral history associations were formed in the world, and the feeling arose that what is the position and function of all these different associations that entered the field of oral history. And what interaction and consensus can they have together? Is it necessary for them to interact in the same area or not? What are the areas of better presentation of oral history in the world?

If I want to explain about one of these areas of discussion, it was the objections that the American Humanities Association took on oral history in the discussion of the standards for presenting subjects in America in the field of humanities. There was this objection that they did not accept oral history as a specific field of history, and they were not even allowed to refer to interviews in humanities theses. These flaws were one of the reasons that led to the formation of standards in the world. That is, little by little, after a period of flourishing and expansion, emergence and generalization, self-criticism and other-criticism emerged in oral history. The question arose as to why so many interviews are taking place and what is their position? Is it all worth it?

The question raised by Mr. Dr. Abolhasani that in many cases we do not suffer from self-inflicted content of oral history? How should its structure be? How should we cooperate? Perhaps if I want to compare this period of oral history with our current situation, it can be said that it is suitable for the current situation of oral history in Iran. Due to the fact that after two decades of working on oral history, increasing the activity and expanding and popularizing oral history (Mr. Kamri uses the term "two sticks in oral history" in this regard), there should be a rethinking and a revision in the past activity. We should find the weak and strong points and turn to the useful use of oral history.

This debate was raised very seriously in the world in the mid-eighties, and they reached a consensus about it in one of the meetings of the American Oral History Association. The discussion of oral history standards was raised, and after that, in 1989, the first global oral history standards were presented by the Oral History Association, which was last revised in 2000. It is interesting that in the last 22 years at least, there has been no revision of the standards of oral history in the world, and each institution has tried to localize these standards within the framework of their own needs. This debate was raised very seriously in the world in the mid-eighties, and they reached a consensus about it in one of the meetings of the American Oral History Association. The discussion of oral history standards was raised, and after that, in 1989, the first global oral history standards were presented by the Oral History Association, which was last revised in 2000. It is interesting that in the last 22 years at least, there has been no revision of the standards of oral history in the world, and each institution has tried to localize these standards within the framework of their own needs.

If you look around the world, centers such as Baylor Institute, University of California, Smithson and other fields have reconstructed and localized standards for themselves in line with their work and goals, inspired by the global oral history standards, and are in use.

I remember that at the early of 2011, when I was working in the field of oral history and it was my first entry into this field, there was no standard for oral history in Iran. The National Documents Organization had two or three forms and the rest of the centers had one or two half and half forms. It means that we practically did not have anything called standard and it was not defined in this sense. The whole work process was carried out in the form of two or three forms that the documents organization had prepared in its time and the other centers had taken from there, and practically there was no talk of standards.

Perhaps the first time that the international standards of oral history in its modern sense were raised in Iran was when I translated the article on the international standards of oral history and published it in Ganjineh Sanad magazine, and all the working processes of the Astan Quds Razavi Document Center were based on the international standards of history. We reviewed it orally. Of course, at the same time, each of these centers had taken measures in line with their own work; But they did not have anything called codified standards in this sense. Even now, we still don't have any documented standards of oral history in Iran. Each center has done something in line with its own work.

These standards had several general axes that will be discussed in this program. The most important areas of the standard are:

  1. Discussing commitment to the interviewee. It is interesting that the most important topic of standardization of oral history is the discussion of the interviewee, and the most clause in the global standards of oral history is dedicated to the interviewee. Both the obligation of the interviewer to the interviewee and the obligation of the institution or that archival institution to the interviewee. That is, if it is not an exaggeration, in total, perhaps half of the global oral history standards are specific to the interviewee as the narrator and the most important information agent, and this issue is important from the point of view that, in the information data, it depends on the interviewee and the type of communication you have with them. It depends on the interview you do and the type of data you get. Oral history is based on this basis. For this reason, perhaps more than half of the international standards of oral history are devoted to this issue of the interviewee as the most important pillar of the interview and the standards and ethical points and issues that must be observed, and topics such as ethical obligations towards the interviewee, the interviewee's awareness of the results of the interview awareness about interviewing and doing work is discussed under this topic.
  2. Discussing the obligations of archival institutions and associations that support and order interviews, which I have several paragraphs about the discussion of standardization and the correct definition of projects and the discussion of accessibility, the duties of archives in relation to the accessibility of resources, the duties of archives in relation to the proper archiving of interviews and the correct interpretation of interviews, equipment and tools. I will speak just as it is done in oral history.

Also, the issue of the interviewer and the standards that an interviewer should consider and should be followed in choosing the interviewee are discussed. On the other hand, a series of very brief and general guidelines regarding the use of oral history has been provided, such as what standards should be followed when interview sources are to be used and what generalities should be used in the interview. Also, a series of very general guidelines for teachers and students are included in these standards at the end.

The last topic in the global standards of oral history is the discussion of ethical standards in interviews, which is very important in its own way. These criteria have been expanded as ethical points in the discussion of commitment to the interviewee, commitment to the project, commitment to doing the work correctly and correctly defining the project, and commitment to "obtaining historical data". That is, the ethical standards in conducting an oral history project, which is one of the most important and serious topics, and it seems that there is room for us to deal with it much more in Iran. It may be necessary to dedicate one of the oral history conferences to the discussion of ethical standards in oral history in order to know at what stage and how it should be done.

In a summary, if I want to name these standards, considering that the standards are somewhat confusing because of it, but overall, it is designed in such a way that both the producing community and the user community can benefit and use it. Today, in the world, standards are localized and used by different fields. The fact is that in Iran there is something called standard, in the sense that we are considering it now, they only have centers for themselves. Now, no center in Iran has taken responsibility for the standardization of oral history in this sense. The National Documents Organization has done some work for itself, as well as other centers; In Astan Quds, we also designed our own style book. The Institute of Contemporary History of Iran worked in its field and so did the rest of the centers. However, no field in the sense of designing a style book and saying that this is related to the global standard, and no association or center has taken it upon themselves to say that we have considered these standards of oral history and anyone who wants to do it in Iran. These must be observed to be at least in a framework.

            We hope to be able to answer some main questions in this program: What area of ​​oral history do the standards cover? What kind of field do they cover? Who is responsible for standards? Is it possible to achieve some kind of standardization in Iran? What are the necessary criteria for standardization in Iran?

 

To be continued…

 



 
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