The 7th virtual meeting of Iranian oral history

Principles, Frameworks, and Standards of Conducting Oral History – 4

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



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.

Dr. Farahani Monfared: I want to ask Dr. Esmaili a question. We know that Mr. Dr. Azizi has written a book entitled "Oral History of Iranian Sports, Generalities and Implementation Manual"[1]; you, who worked in the field of oral history of sports, have an opinion and a point of view in this field. My question is, should we have a specific style and guide when we talk about oral history standards? Like the guidelines for working in the oral history of war or the oral history of oil or the oral history of universities? Or is there a set of rules and methods that we can use in any field?

Dr. Esmaili: The fact is that many of the points that are included in such guidelines, such as the guideline that Dr. Azizi prepared, are common. It means that it is not fundamentally different from each other. Although we will have differences depending on the topic. As someone who has learned something in history, I really do not consider oral history apart from the method, anything other than what is called "research method" in the knowledge of history. I constantly tried to generalize the same words here. But in the specific topic of sports, there are some points that make this work different from the historiography of war or the historiography of the field of medicine, etc., and it mostly comes back to the subject itself, such as terms, rules, active elements, and things like that.

What I did was in the field of football. Naturally, the rest of the departments were not my work and I had no expertise. It was a bit of interest and the fact that I came to the work team, I used various friends related to it. That is, we followed it and tried to show this issue. It seems that we have succeeded in some places, and that is that we said that football, as something that did not exist in our society, when it enters the Iranian society, what things and what effects and results it brings with it. We came from a part of the football community, that is, from a list of about 150 people that existed, depending on the financial resources, age and years, due to the appropriate memory, due to the related knowledge, due to the presence in different fields and due to the records that they had, we specified some points.

In twenty people, the questions were similar. For example, how is your biography? Where were you born? We found out their class position. But we also tried to ask what changes did it bring when football entered their individual and collective lives? Remember that along with football comes refereeing rules, physical training organization, league, advertising, fan, stadium and other such things. You can see that a phenomenon like football brings with it huge cultural and social changes. The media is present in it, war and fighting are present in it, cloth color of teams is present in it, and there are many other topics that can be turned and discovered around the sport. Anyway, we tried to enter parts of this to the best of our ability and with a prior plan. We tried to find different narratives.

For example, one of the things that exists in sports right now is the discussion of political interference in football. When you are doing historical work, if you do not address this issue, it is as if you do not understand the issue and are out of history. An incident happened in the country's football, which is completely the product of political interference. Like the dissolution of Shahin team. Or, for example, in the past, the public opinion or the public atmosphere was that because the Taj team is close to the regime, it has more facilities, and because the society was against the regime, it went to the teams that had problems with them. Interestingly, a place like Amjadiyeh was occupied by Persepolis or Shahin teams, and one corner belonged to the Esteghlal team, and you could see this space completely.

For example, one of the big events that happens in football is two matches between Iranians and Israelis. Once they competed with the Hapoel team of the Zionist regime, and they will compete with Israel once in the Asian tournament. For the first time, Iran becomes the champion of Asia. Friends who remember Iran going to the 1998 World Cup in 1997 know that Tehran changed in that year. This also happened that year in Tehran after Iran won against Israel. We look at these. I am fully aware that we are looking at the issue historically. Our issue is only about winning and losing, and it is not about who scored and who didn't and whether the referees were treated or not. For example, one of the things that existed, and it is also important in terms of cultural and social history, was the bets that were made in the football match in the coffee houses around the railway square and so on. That is, we have a completely historical approach.

My belief is that at the current stage, when we enter into the work of historical study, we should have a plan so that we can collect appropriate data for historical studies. We must also accept that whatever we do, there is a value system of judgment of the narrator and maybe sometimes the narrator, that is, the interviewer. Anyway, that point of conversation, that is, the dialectic of oral history text production, is quite interesting.

You consider the triangle that produces oral history, and it always has three sides. One side is the event that is our topic. Now this event can be a person or an institution. Anyway, it's a coincidence; there are two other sides that are talking about this event, that is, it becomes date one and date two. One is the narrator, and the other tries to take the narration from the narrator. In any case, these become oral history and we must really respect the technical dimension and have this knowledge about the production of the oral history text.


[1] Azizi, Gholamreza. (2020). Oral history of sports: generalities and implementation guidelines, Tehran, Andisheh Nagaristan

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