Yad, No. 97 and 98 (The Methodology of Oral History: Restoration the Mystery of the Past)


I had never seen "Yad" quarterly in such state; weak, wretched and miserable. Yad is the first journal of history in Iran. And it has become so tormented. It is getting harder and harder to publish it, issue by issue. The journal is now more of a periodical than a quarterly. The spring and summer edition of 2000, contained only eighty pages altogether. There might not be another issue at all. In the editorial and "Editorial Substitute" which Abdol Majid Ma'adikhah, the managing editor, has written, one could see what agony he is in from its title: "a cure to the pain of weary souls":

"I do not know! Maybe these unpleasant days, this suffocating hardship, which the foundation is enduring, could be more beneficial than the cheerful days, if only we look at it from a different angle! The cheerful days when no endeavor would tire me; with a hopeful spirit, ambitious mind, setting my eyes on the outcome of "the situation in historiography"! I am not talking about the ups and downs of the foundation. For that today it is older than a quarter century. I am talking about a broken goblet and an exhausted writer who is suddenly rising as if in his last moments, offering the last drop from an empty goblet to those who disapproved of Yad and those who believed in it." P. 15

It is obvious that Yad, had much unsaid in its unpublished pages. If we compare Yad's situation today with colorful and lavish magazines of some centers and foundations then, we can hear those unsaid words.
Yad should not have been published in such wretched state. But, it has, only to say that it is still alive, to promise a tomorrow. 
I have known Yad from the days I had just entered the field of memoir writing; the days in which oral history was not an official category yet. Yad, was all there was of oral history those days, oral history which today castes an influential shadow upon historiography in Iran.
Yad, struggling with inflation and lack of budget has gone weak today. It is facing the dilemma of whether to stay, despite its wretched situation, or leave the stage and become history.

"The privileged ones who have no concern regarding security or freedom, who, enjoying unlimited financial resources, can mobilize an army of writers and narrators, can add to the pages of their journals without having to worry about the paper, inflation, rising expenses and other crisis.
For the rest, they should take the right path to experience the blessings through the ups and downs of life.
Suffering from disappointment, we too, resort to this very attitude which we found hard to express. p. 17 

Compare this miserable issue of Yad with a newborn magazine named Yadavar which consists of more than 350 colorful and lavish pages printed in finest paper. Nevertheless, the reputation of Yad is such that this fancy magazine tries so hard to be a reminder or Yad. The suffix "Avar" is so small in the logo that it can hardly be seen. At first sight, readers can only recognize Yad.
Actually, the Editor-in-Chief and managing director of Yad journal have directly addressed this issue and mentioned journals such as Yadavar and Yadrobayan.
 Aboulfazl Shakouri, the Editor-in-Chief, has said a few words to Yad's readers, about the reason for the negligence in historiography:

"Historiography- especially "oral history" which has become trendy these days- pays no respect to methodology. It more or less is alienated-if not completely alienated- from all that is self-evident.
"Historical research methodology" is not simply a matter of interview, research, translation or writing a book for that matter! The others who have stepped into this field for five centuries are still struggling with figuring out the correct methodology for it.
I have been trying for three years to build a reputation for myself in this field, without taking my position granted even for one second.
In the beginning I thought to myself, I can get to know their experiences if I translate a couple of authentic books.
For a while I thought that the problem is with translation. If we manage to enhance the translations we would no more suffer from ambiguities.
However, I soon realized that the main obstacle is the "fuzziness of history" because if one takes a close look, it is full of unresolved mysteries. I discussed this with a couple of scholars who had written a book or two, in the field of history research methodology and confirmed my findings with them. P.26

Shakouri has interviewed the managing director and discussed the research methodology and pathology of oral history.
Shakourirad proposes a critical question:" Is there any clear research methodology for oral history? If there is, is it possible to challenge it? If there isn't, then how can we move towards defining a correct approach?
The answer to this question led to an interesting discussion, between Ma'adikhah and Shakouri, which is worth reading. Therefore, we dedicated a part of this issue to this round table discussion and a couple of articles which we received from our scholar friends.

Mohsen Kazemi
Translated by: Jairan Gahan



 
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