The 7th virtual meeting of Iranian oral history

Principles, Frameworks, and Standards of Conducting Oral History – 7

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 Rasulipour, Dr. Habibullah Esmaili, and Dr. Mehdi Abolhasani Targhee spoke about the issue of oral history standards in theory and practice.

In the continuation of the meeting, Dr. Farahani Monfared asked Mr. Abidpour to continue the discussion.

Mr. Abidpour: I think that during the last two or three decades, the discussion of oral history has suffered a kind of distortion. As Mr. Rasulipour also mentioned, oral history is one of the methods of collecting documents in order to show the historical reality in the past from the point of view of a historian to write history; Therefore, if we want to give a scientific definition, we can say that oral history is a group of documents that exist alongside library documents and other sources. What is now in our society and especially with the existence and publication of Mr. Habib Lajavardi's oral history project, or Mr. Dehbashi's oral history talks, it has become clear to the minds of the society and even the officials of this exchange that this is what oral history means. It means to find a prominent researcher or an analyst and talk to the experts of a subject and these conversations are organized and classified and then published.

It can even be said that the type of conversation Abdullah Shahbazi had with Fardoost was very effective in inducing this theory, because he had a very good conversation. In fact, this kind of exchange came to mind that this is what oral history is; but in my opinion, this is a kind of upside down perception of oral history. There may be tens or even thousands of hours of video or audio conversations about a topic with people who are surrounded by that topic. For example, about the history of football that Dr. Esmaili said or the history of religious delegations that Dr. Abolhasani mentioned; but it seems like a mistake to publish these things without a comparative review and review of documents, especially documents that are against the views that have been raised.

One of the problems that is taken with oral history, and therefore the historiography of the European area does not pay much attention to oral history, is that the historian does not get caught up in a discourse of power. The discourse that exists in the society may demand one thing, but the historian may be really looking for the truth that he recognizes. Therefore, there is a contradiction between the historian's work, in which the idea he has and the question he raises is to seek the truth with what the society, the government, or the political power wants from him.

An example is that in the interviews of the late Habib Lajavardi with the leaders and officials of the Pahlavi government that have been published, they all defend the Pahlavi government by presenting the documents that are announced in the interview. The talks that Mr. Hossein Dehbashi gave have the same character and they have a critical character compared to the talks of presenting the official history of the war. It works very well.

I am critical of Mr. Rasolipour's speech, who said that anyone can be a questioner. I think anyone looking for oral history should have a historical study plan. As a historian, he must conduct and collect each and every interview. There may be 10 interviews or even 100 interviews. These interviews are useful for him along with the review of other sources. Publishing what is said in oral history interviews is not good for the truth in my opinion, because these interviews are one person's point of view. Every person has likes and dislikes like all of us, and therefore history is more than one person, and the historian should not get caught in the trap of individual discourse, political discourse, power discourse, etc.

In my opinion, there is a popular understanding of oral history that sometimes different ministries have the desire that only dialogue should be done, but the relevant documents must also be consulted. In my opinion, in the oral history projects of a topic (for example, about the relationship of power during the Pahlavi era), historians should definitely use those interviews, but writings, analysis, statistics and other things should also be used. The thing that perhaps history professors in scientific academic circles do not pay much attention to is due to this fear. The fear that this discourse will come to power and present another form of reality based on interviews and various projects that take place. It means that in every period we finally face limitations and we cannot express all the things we want. Therefore, you must be very careful to listen to the interviews and collect them.

People who are alive should not be allowed to destroy these memories before their death; But these interviews should be along with other factors of the report, so that perhaps the interviews do not show their superiority in writing history. In my opinion, it is a kind of danger for historiography if the interview overcomes the effort of documentary historiography over the writings of documents. Of course, we see this in the American historiography school that contemporary American historiography is mostly influenced by this type of oral history in the two fields of international relations and political science, and it is actually a type of discourse creation. They want to do a kind of discourse-making by bringing the interviews into history. There are different organizations that are looking for their own specific theories. Every organization wants to promote this type of interview-oriented historiography according to the money they have. In my opinion, that central analysis and central document is very important. Oral history is a type of document along with other documents.

Mr. Rasulipour: Each of my friends saw the article from a specific angle, which was very useful for me and I used it. I repeat again, we must check the quality level of our dialogues. We have to critique the conversations we feel are somewhat influential on a case-by-case basis. I have not yet seen a conference that was held in Iran and a word was expressed about the criticism of one or more dialogues. I follow this kind of view more and I really like that in the future we have people in oral history who will become indicators. For young people who want to talk and be role models. Get training from their type of work. By conversation, we mean a standard conversation. If we talk about oral history, let's discuss and criticize a conversation case by case and raise its problems. Let's raise its positive aspects and hold training sessions on them. I hope this will happen one day. All I'm talking about is addressing the shortcomings that oral history practitioners committed. It is natural that we are still in the beginning and although almost thirty years have passed since these oral history activities, it is not very long. Anyway, these experiences and reflections of people should be recorded and put on paper. There will be a time when the interviews will be reviewed and introduced case by case.

Dr. Hassanabadi: As Mr. Rasulipour said, we are in a period where we need a re-examination. I and all those who have a hand in oral history in the last two or three decades, came to the conclusion that oral history has come from the era of rebirth and expansion and now needs a period of reconstruction, formation and consolidation. In the first step, this field, while it has very good potential and actual capacities, should be accepted to work in a framework and structure.

The discussion of standards was discussed tonight from both perspectives, both perspectives are acceptable. That is, in a general perspective, if we consider that we need a discussion of general standards in oral history that all people, government centers and individuals who enter this field must comply and accept accessibility. They should accept the presentation of the original sources, the lack of originality of the text, the importance of the originality of speech over writing, etc. These are issues that are accepted in the world. That is, every person or institution that comes and wants to do oral history work should accept this as an approach.

He must admit that he cannot publish the book without the person's permission. The person does not know that his book has been published. Because of this, it still happens a lot. Also, general standards, which are very common and a little even trivial, but important and effective, should be accepted.

In the second step, there is the issue of specialization of standards, which, as friends mentioned, in any field, according to the conditions of the type of project, different standards may be proposed, used, observed and formulated, and these standards may be the same thing in sports, in the field of science. Political is one thing or it is a completely different discussion in the field of social sciences. However, it is an important point that we must have standards that are accepted. We need to know what to refer to oral history. What should we explain with oral history? Of course, in all fields, we need to redefine standardization that is understandable for everyone.

General standards have been raised to a great extent and we are not lacking in this field. We are now aware of the content of the translations I did or other books that have been translated, and there are sources, but we are not conscious. It is necessary to repeat these standards so much that they are accepted in Iran and accepted by everyone. The discussion of specialization of oral history standards may differ in any field, it is also necessary and important, and God willing, we hope, as friends have suggested, that the upcoming conferences of the Iranian Oral History Association will enter into this kind of perspective to enter a period of revision and reconstruction in oral history. let's be.


The End


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