Acquaintance of Oral History

Oral History Reader
By: Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson
  Paperback: 496 pages
  Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (January 8, 1998)
  Language: English
  ISBN-10: 0415133521
  ISBN-13: 978-0415133524
  Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds

“Oral history” can be broadly defined as a report on unknown person’s experiences and feelings. Although the definition is not comprehensive but it can be acceptable with regard to working class as one of the main subject of oral history researches. The Oral History Reader edited by Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson, two well-known researchers of oral history, is a good collection of articles on this topic. Perks is curator of Oral History and Director of National Life Stories at British Library Sound Archive and Thomson is a Reader in Continuing Education and History at the Centre for Continuing Education, University of Sussex. Both of them are also editors of Oral History Journal (JSTOR) publishing by oral history society.
The Oral history Reader released by Routledge at January 8th 1998 for the first time. This edition published 3 times more from 2000 to 2003 without any changes. The publisher launched fully updated volume of the book in 2006 in 578 pages for the fourth time that was including new subjects.
Oral History Reader is the most comprehensive collection of international articles about the theories, methods and practice of oral history. This volume illustrates similarities and differences in oral history from around the world, including clear examples from North and South America, Britain, Australasia, Europe and Africa. It also details the subjects - such as women's history, family history, ethnic history and disability history - to which oral history has made a significant contribution. The Oral History Reader is an essential tool for all students of modern history, memory studies, sociology, anthropology, media studies, cultural and heritage studies, gerontology, archives, library and information studies.
43 elected articles by Perks and Thomson are arranged in 5 thematic sections. This first section contains 8 articles mostly about theories and basic information of oral history under the title of Critical Developments. This part contains key issues such as oral history definition, key role of memory, methods of oral histories, the oral history and genealogy relationship. One of the best article in this section is “Voice of the Past: Oral History” by Paul Thompson.
Thompson, who has published a book under same title, had previously written two other articles about digital revolution and its effect on oral history and chronology of women oral history.
8 articles of second section are totally dedicated to interviewing as the main technique of oral history. First 3 articles in this chapter are about nature, techniques and analysis of interview such as “Learning to listen: Interview techniques and analyses” by Kathryn Anderson and Dana C. others are some examples of oral history and interviews in Africa, Europe and around the world. For example Belinda Bozzoli’s article is about women of Phokeng (small town and a tribe in Africa) or Cross-cultural interviewing: Japanese women in England by   Susan K. Bultural.
Interpreting Memories is the title of third chapter with 9 articles that can be divided to two main subjects. First, articles about definition and concepts of memory and oral events such as structure and validity in oral evidence by Trevor Lummis or Oral History and Community Involvement by Linda Shopes. But most of the articles in this section are about oral history projects in remote area of the world such as Ansac Memories: living with the legend by Alistair Tamson and the other article by Annal Laura Stoler with Karen Srassler about oral history in the road.
The title of chapter four is making histories. The subject of 9 articles in this chapter is about oral history: possibilities, tactics, practice, output, teaching, future, digital revolution and the other related topics such as oral history and the archives by Ellen D. Swain which considering the role of oral history in the 21st Century, or the future of oral history and moving image by Dan Sipe , or Anna Green’s article about oral history and museums. The title of last article in this chapter is Cyber Teaching in the oral history classroom by Rina Benmayor on the role of computer and digital revolution in teaching and production of oral history.
Part v as the last chapter is under the title of “Advocacy and Empowerment” and includes the other 9 articles about different subjects in oral history field. For example “Reminiscence and oral history:  parallel universes or shared Endeavour?” by Joanna Bornat, or “Voices of Experience: Oral History in the Classroom” by Cliff Kuhn and Marjorie L. McLellan and “Leprosy in India: The intervention of oral history” by Sanjiv Kakar.
A selection of history books and oral historiography is given in the bibliography at the end of the book which makes studies and researches easier for readers.
The editors also added an introduction for each part which contextualizes the selection by reviewing key issues and authors and relevant information as well as main introduction and preface. So readers would be well-advised to study these introductions to understand the articles better. The main feature of this qualified book is the number and variety of articles and writers. The feature here represents wide spectrum of different aspects of oral history in full details in a 600- pages collection. All those interested in oral history study and researches can familiar more with latest definition, concepts, methods, subjects, practice, output, past and future, outline (geography) and other related subjects through pages of the book written by 43 prominent researchers in the field of oral history.
Although the book is a collection of articles by different authors who are professional researches in different branches but arranging articles by two oral history researchers shadowed any discord and made the book perfect. So translation of this book to Persian via lack of sources and reliable studies can turn Persian researchers’ attention to oral history. Its crystal clear the translation should be done by a group of translators who are familiar with history and historiography.

By: Hussein Hatami
Translator: Safa Sehri

Ketab-e Mah-e Tarikh va Joghrafia (History and Geography Monthly Book), February 2008

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