Partiality for oral history

Morteza Nouraee (PhD)
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


Note: One of the basic issues[1] for historians is to focus on mechanisms that make less Partiality for historiography as much as possible. Partiality (fanaticism) for historical research is one of pitfalls that disturb the truth-based axioms and bring countless outcomes. As a consequence, this phenomenon is problematic in all aspects of chronicles.


In oral history, Partiality is focused on the process. In other words, each stage (question package, interview and compilation) is being done impartially during the the work, the place of assessment in the field of writing and observing in oral history. In this way, it can be supposed that this fundamental question is also posed to oral historians: How much interview can be Impartial? Here, therefore, the question is: who is the historian? Who is interviewer or interviewee? Undoubtedly, interview is a common product formed by two sides of the interview during the conversation. Although interviewer advances this process with a designated program as an engineer, but the accompaniment of the interviewer or narrator forms the main content. Therefore, it can be noted that the partiality has two-side situation that can be used to discuss in this field for pathology and avoid it:

  1. As the questions form answers and they are extracting the raw material for using in history, the interviewer must always prepare the pre-planned questions and lead the interview in an unexpected way. In this regard, transition from set questions to a conversation that help to remember past memoirs out of partiality has priority. Could you differentiate between the current sense and the memories? How much being active and passive of interviewer and interviewee can be understand?
  2. During the interview, interviewer, through direct or indirect imposition of cultural assumptions and political views, can draw the result of his work and influenced his own tendencies.
  3. On the other hand, the interpretation of the interview is not confined to the interviewer because the interviewees are constantly presenting a new description and analyzing their motivations and actions; they remember and explain newly.
  4. Generally, it can be said that there are two groups of active interviewers in oral history that each have their own vulnerabilities in partiality issues:" a: Archival Interviewers: these interviewers do interview to archive some works to be used by other scholars. It is commonly said that this group of interviewers should have fewer partiality and conduct interviews on the circuit of balance. Because they have no personal benefit in any interpretation, and their products are, in fact, raw materials. At the same time, the existence of archives with stated purposes is being constantly accused of partiality. b: Independent interviewers; usually, this group of interviewers conducts interviews for their own researches, they try to interpret and compile them; it is said that these interpretations are not free of bias. In addition, the status of verification of their interview's documentations can be a point of ambiguity. These ambiguities are usually seen in the way of partiality."
  5. "Sometimes we go to do interview, but we are being interviewed", which means that because of the position and personality of the interviewee, especially politicians who has deep personality, they tell "anti-memoirs" at all times. Self-discipline in actions and in retelling memories leads to magnification or ennoblement for the interviewee; it should not go unnoticed in the eyes of the interviewer. By mastering of this point, the interview may be come to main direction several times by different mechanisms.


[1]  Dr. Morteza Nouraee, the Professor of History at the University of Isfahan, and the President of the Iranian    Local History Society, has written this notes at the University of Sofia in Bulgaria on Azar 16, 1396 (December, 7, 2017) and has sent to the Oral History Association.


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