The 7th virtual meeting of Iranian oral history

Principles, Frameworks, and Standards of Conducting Oral History – 2

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

2022-10-18


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 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.

In the first part, Dr. Hassanabadi talked about the standards of conducting oral history. In the continuation of the program, Dr. Monfared said: Mr. Dr. Hassanabadi, if you have any points, please raise them.

Dr. Hassanabadi: I would also like to thank you for the good words that were raised. I have to add two or three points. When I look at the standards for doing oral history, it's strict yet easy. That is, I believe that oral history itself has several types and models and we can never include oral history in a specific format. Because the international standards of oral history have not changed at least in the last twenty years. It means that a standard that was designed twenty years ago remains. Why? Because abroad it is believed that you can use oral history for different purposes and structures. That is, the international standards of oral history are more of an ethical recommendation. Maybe it's like the moral charter of the United Nations. It means that it has become a series of moral recommendations. Because I have translated them completely myself, I searched and found that it is not strict. It has also been said that even in the case of data generation in this sense, perhaps they are not as strict in the world as we are now discussing and taking the form and type of interviews, data generation, definitions, etc. However, there are a few points that should be noted: in Iran, after forty years of doing oral history, we are now at a stage where I think that demarcation and restructuring of oral history in Iran should be done at different levels and in different periods. In the conversation we had with Mr. Kemari, he emphasized the same issue. That is, we have to re-establish a structure and framework for oral history- a re-standardized definition. There is no argument at all that oral history is public and anyone can do it. There is no debate on this word in the world. Oral history is public and a high school student can conduct oral history and an interview. Of course, not oral history in the sense of the definition that many of us have. We don't have any argument, because one of the main reasons that oral history was not included in the framework, in the form of a field of study, in this sense in the world and its acceptance, is the belief that maybe if oral history in the framework of short-term educational courses can be much better than it is in the form of a specific field. This is because there is no other field of this field in the world. However, oral history in the world has demarcations, that is, you are doing a big project in a specific framework and structure where a specific project is defined, the supervisor is appointed, the supervisor has a project content, and the standards are followed. Once you see that an oral history project costs two million dollars. But some oral history projects, like the left oral history project by Hamid Ahmadi, are expensive and take years. This is an oral history project of sorts. We can't say that in high school you pick up a tape recorder and go interview your father. Then put them together. This is a level of work, and one of the functions of oral history is to convey the feelings, habits, and moods of one historical period to another. However, one level of work is that a project lasts two years, three years, or four years. Mr. Rasulipour himself, some of his interviews lasted 6 months, and 1 year. There is also a project that is done like this. All of them, if put together, become puzzles of the state of Iranian society in a historical period. This is one of the most important functions of oral history. That is, it helps to collect pieces of the information puzzle of society in one period and transfer it to another period; Now, a puzzle can be obtained from the situation of a pastry shop and clothing store and a general job, or a puzzle from a specialized job situation. As we did the same thing in the Corona oral history project. That is, we came from casual workers to pharmacies, and in the higher field, we interviewed doctors in a completely specialized manner. The level of the interviews was not the same, but the social, cultural, and medical situation of Mashhad city was obtained in a historical period during the Corona period. This is the task of oral history. That is, you can use it in different pieces, but the level is not the same. The discussion that Mr. Rasulipour is saying is the same. Everyone should not claim anymore. Our problem is that everyone claims. This is the plan of our topic, and now we need to make a demarcation again to say that everything is accepted, and everything becomes oral history. In these standards, we must observe at least one generality, and that is our moral obligation. Respect the interviewee. We must observe ethical boundaries in interviews. Interviews should be accessible for verification. Interviews should be archived. At least we should observe factors and interview as many as we want. However, let's not do 10,000 hours of interviews and not have one hour available for verification. Only the book should be published and not the interviews. For example, the literature office of the Art Center has 10 thousand hours of interviews, but one hour is not accessible. Many books have been published from it and there are many unfinished works in it. Or the same works of Mr. Rasolipour in the Institute of Contemporary History of Iran are not available at all. Mr. Rasulipour cooperated when he was there, now we do not have public access to these interviews. It seems that in revisiting oral history, a set of standards must be established that anyone who wants to do must meet. If some social security agency or chief of social security comes and does a social security oral history project, it would be great. The archive must be accessible. We have to see the works. The works must be usable. However, they have different levels. That is, unfortunately, all our work is the same as the output. In Iran, everyone who has a doctorate is called a doctor. A person who writes a thesis will be a doctor, you can get it everywhere, no difference. There is no such thing as going abroad to get a doctorate anywhere. Someone who gets a doctorate from Harvard has dignity, someone who gets a degree from so-and-so has another dignity, and they are leveled. We also need to learn to level things up. Let's value the works and reach this understanding, otherwise, the generalization of oral history can be understood as a whole. We have worked hard for years to make oral history so public. Now that it has become public, we should not be afraid. It seems that we must now enter the era of revision. That is, if I say let's go back to the year 2000 and define standards in Iran that all centers are obliged to implement, I am not saying anything wrong. Now, who will announce this is another matter. At least the standards and those generalities should be observed so that in the second step we can enter into the discussion of the classification of oral history information and the discussion of valuing the content, which I think now is the time to begin. One of the places where we can do this well is the Oral History Association, and I will talk with my friends, God willing, to move forward from the next oral history meeting, around the same issue, and to raise public awareness about the necessity of standardizing history. Orally in Iran, let's re-propose the issue and move forward.

 

To be continued ...

 



 
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