Interview with Director of the Office of Cultural and Sustainability Studies for Art Region Provinces

Oral history is subject to researcher’s expertise

Marjan Mirghaffari
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


Director of the Office of Culture and Sustainability Studies for Art Region Provinces said: "approach, attention and even consideration of oral history by some revolutionary and cultural organizations and institutions in some parts of the country is like one of Molavi’s stories.

Interview of Iran Oral History Site with Mohammad Qassemipour is as follows:


*What is the status of oral history in executive policies of Cultural and Sustainability Studies Office?

In provincial affairs, we base our methodology on oral history. The outcome might be published in the form of oral memoirs and the apparent features of the book might not comply with oral history; however, memoir collection and record is based on oral history methodology. Since, all efforts are towards record and preservation, the first priority of the researchers is to employ this method with the exception of memoirs written by the narrator or those who are talented and we support them to record their memories.


*How effective is oral history methodology in the literature of war and Holy defense considering the current situation of the society?

Oral history is subject to the capability and expertise of the researcher. Since oral history method is a mix of various sciences and is intertwined with social sciences, sociology and psychology realizes our objective of addressing contemporary era and decades that are not far away and there are people with memories of the era in a more comprehensive manner depending on the awareness and dominance of the researcher on the methodology. With sociological and psychological perspective the social requirements of the era are better recorded. Today, we deal with family issues, life style, our behavior towards children and communication with them; and I mean to say that we are in pursuit of a life style based on Iranian – Islamic culture. The period of Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense, culturally and with respect to information and field truths they provide are cultural pride eras and we have had suitable periods in our history;

Despite the fact that war was dominating the country and we were being bombarded, there are behaviors, approaches and social norms that are suitable to be presented to the world. Some other aspects are capacities built by defenders, revolutionary forces and combatants and were immortalized in history. Comprehensive and updated use of oral history methodology shall provide better outcomes compared to other methods and unscientific researchers which are based on the preferences of the researcher and by employing this method we shall have comprehensive and immortal results which address our needs properly. Also, from cultural and social perspective, it is essential to learn our contemporary history.

Revolution and war techniques and tactics are not mere focus. There are individuals, cultural consequences, behind the fronts, their ordinary life style and the families which matter and oral history shall assist us in collecting and recording them.


*What are the objectives and plans of the office to employ oral history in its future activities?

Our first priority is training and concept support from provincial capitals to gain self-esteem and to be able to achieve outcomes from efforts made; the load of works and interviews conducted is far beyond the outcomes that we see which indicates the necessity of training. Self-reliance and self-esteem of provincial researchers is very important to us since the local author is acquainted with the climate, folklore and customary culture. They are the ones who can record history since there is language diversity and researchers of the country capital are not fluent in all languages and do not cover human geography. Hence, it is better to have a researcher who lives under the same circumstances and the soldiers or prisoners of war and speaks the language and is capable of communication. Accordingly, most credit and capacity of our capital office are focused on 30 provinces and we don’t have researchers in Tehran. Our contracts and funds are allocated to those at provincial capitals with initiatives; provincial offices support by introducing them to us.


*How do you perceive the future of oral history at provincial level?

I’m not professional analyst to predict the future. However, considering twenty years of serious consideration of the concept in the country, now there is pathology of understanding, perception and recognition concerning oral history. This understanding and perceptions shall be translated into science and provide a scientific definition of oral history. Approach, consideration and attention of Revolutionary and cultural organizations and institution in some areas of the country is like a story by Molavi which varies based on their entry and standing point.

It is important to unify definitions and processes in this science. In provincial offices we provided support in this respect and believe that our definition is in line with the academic definitions and that of National Oral History Association. However, in provinces independent cultural activities are less probably and cultural workgroups have to be established and coordinated and our energy and capacity is spent on aligning contradicting opinions and ideas; some of which are not scientific. Some of the requirements of oral history are modified in provinces and sometimes requirements are added which are not based on science.  For instance in oral history having an oral document suffices. Today, your recorder, records and preserves the interviews you conduct; however in some provinces and organizations the researchers is required to have a video recorder; while this is not a required aspect since video recorders might damage self-esteem and this very fact requires mid-term solutions. Usually, organizations and offices using this method adapt it with the intended outcome and define the process accordingly while this does not apply to oral history; this is due to the fact that we encourage the researcher not to worry about the outcome and merely follow interviews and documentation of oral history to be added to the main oral history document.

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Is oral history the words of people who have not been seen?

Some are of the view that oral history is useful because it is the words of people who have not been seen. It is meant by people who have not been seen, those who have not had any title or position. If we look at oral history from this point of view, it will be objected why the oral memories of famous people such as revolutionary leaders or war commanders are compiled.

Daily Notes of a Mother

Memories of Ashraf-al Sadat Sistani
They bring Javad's body in front of the house. His mother comes forward and says to lay him down and recite Ziarat Warith. His uncle recites Ziarat and then tells take him to the mosque which is in the middle of the street and pray the funeral prayer (Ṣalāt al-Janāzah) so that those who do not know what the funeral prayer is to learn it.

A Critique on Oral history of War Commanders

“Answering Historical Questions and Ambiguities Instead of Individual-Organizational Identification”
“Oral history of Commanders” is reviewed with the assumption that in the field of war historiography, applying this method is narrated in an advancing “new” way, with the aim of war historiography, emphasizing role of commanders in creation of its situations and details.
A cut from memoirs of Jalil Taeffi

Escaping with camera

We were in the garden of one of my friends in "Siss" on 26th of Dey 1357 (January 16, 1979). We had gone for fun. It was there that we heard the news of Shah's escape from the local people. They said that the radio had announced. As soon as I heard this news, I took a donkey and went on its back.