An Introduction to the book of Interview in Oral History

Ahmadreza Amiri Samani


Translated by: Mohammad Baqer Khoshnevisan

Interview in Oral History is a collection of the selected articles of the 4th Professional Oral History Conference and Workshop held on 25th and 26th February 2008 at “Resistance Literature and Culture Research and Studies Center” in Tehran, Iran. The difference of the 4th conference with the previous ones was that the previous conferences had a general look at oral history debate. But the fourth conference particularly dealt with reviewing the issue of "Interview in Oral History" and was focused on eight sub-issues.
They are the nature of interview in oral history, the dilemmas and inevitable cases in interview in oral history, ways and methods of interview in oral history, the extension and depth of questions in the subject of interview, the role and impact of the interviewer's pre-assumptions in the interview, the role of the place and location in the interview and finally studying the proportion and range of "quotation", "explanation" and "the incident's criticism" in interview from the language of the interviewee.
54 articles and written-speeches were received from the researches and research centers for this conference and the faculty –consisting of a number of experts and the members of the history group of the Literature and Humanities School of Isfahan University – selected 18 articles for presenting in the eight-part sessions of the conference.
The book "Interview in Oral History" is a collection of the entire articles and written-speeches without considering their scientific ranking and contents but in accordance with the subject of the conference.
The policy council of the 4th Specialized Conference on Oral History has said that the book is aimed at promotion of Iran's current capability regarding oral history, encouraging the history researchers to investigate about new subjects in this regard and providing the grounds for changing and applying this new field in Iran.
In view the above mentioned aims, revolving on the book's articles gives us a clear and wide image about oral history and the goals of such conferences.
Apart from its technical content, the book is a report on the trend of holding of the 4th Conference of Oral History because it starts with the speech of Morteza Sarhangi, Head of Resistance Literature and Culture Research and Studies Center in greeting the audience and the speech of Alireza Kamari, the scientific secretary of the 4th conference and ends with Kamari's speech too.
The first article of the book is an article by Mehdi Kamous entitled "The Conception and Nature of Interview in Oral History".
Mehdi Kamous has a fresh look at the nature of interview. From his viewpoint, a mere exploratory and operational look at the process of interview can cause us to ignore its main conception and nature "connection" and may distance us from achieving the main goal (reaching to reality).
From the viewpoint of Kamous, interview in oral history is a dialogue the result of which is a narration from a historical event while a historical narration in the way of dialogue between two sides needs the correct connection between the narrator and interviewer than the method of exploration. Kamous in his article has a general view on the oral history itself.
"The Interview's Morphology" is the title of the book's second article authored by Gholam Reza Azizi. At the beginning of his article, Azizi gives the main subject of the discussion to the auditor by comparing interview with art. In his article, Azizi tries to study interview from the viewpoints of method, aim, time, interviewee and the conditions of interviewing and expresses the differences and similarities of different kinds of interviews.
The third article has been written by Mohammad Kamal Nasseri under the heading "Importance of Interview in Oral History". In his article, Nasseri considers oral history as a method beyond media interviews.
He also stresses that the there should be a connection in the process of interview in oral history which is under the influence of the laws ruling over human connections and the special psychological aspects.
In the book's next article, Seyyed Abolfazl Razavi starts a debate titled "The Data Resulted from Interview, History or Historiography". Razavi in his article addresses the proportions and differences between the texts come from the interviews with historiographical ones. To him, the texts come from the interviews has large differences with those historiographical ones in which the incident itself has been involved, and if they are considered as history, they will not be considered historiography.
Alireza Mollaee Tavani in an article entitled "Criticizing and Analyzing the Interview's Data" reviews the methods of criticizing and purifying the interview's data which is somehow completes the previous article.
The ordering of the book's article is in a way that every several article cover a field area and this is a positive feature for the book.
In their articles, Peymaneh Salehi Fashami and Misters Gholam Reza Dorkatanian and Hamid Karamipour have reviewed and analyzed the issues of the interviewer's dilemmas and problems in oral history interview.
Salehi refers to the problems like the two side's individual problems, political considerations, religious teachings and problems like these. Karamipour has also written about both of these issues.
Ali Baqerifar has presented the summary of his experiences in an article titled "The Weak and Strong Points of Interview in Oral History".
One of the productive articles of the book or in other words the conference is the one authored by Seyyed Qassem Yahosseini. In his article entitled "Pathology of Interview in Oral History" has addressed the current harms regarding oral history interview on the basis of his personal experiences. Yahosseini has introduced and studied nine harms and challenges for oral history interviews and according to his experiences, and has presented ways of evading and solving these difficulties, adding the attractions of his article.
"The critical review of some conducted interviews concerning Islamic Revolution history" is the title of an article by Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Manzoorol Ajdad. He has strongly criticized the current method of revolutionary interviews and not answering many questions.
Also, Mohsen Hessam Mazaheri has written a short article on the basis of his own and friends' experiences in collecting and analyzing the information of a group of martyrs under the heading "Discourse Core and Unbiased Distortions". He has referred to a big obstacle named "the interview's formal language" which does not allow the two sides of the interview to use all capacities of oral history.
One of the applicable articles of the book is the one authored by Mohammad Nazarzadeh under the heading "Forethought in Oral History Interviews". In his article, he refers to the methods that if they are implemented properly, the two sides of the interview can use them easily and the interview is conducted correctly.
In oral history, individual interview is one of the most common tools for reaching the facts. Saeed Assadi by focusing on this point says that the individuals tend more to memorize the personal aspects of the incidents. Therefore, he complains of individual interviews and in an article entitled "A Criticism on Interview's Narration" says the remedy is that different witnesses of an incident should discuss in a group to achieve the real nature of that event. The 10-page article can be the origin of new techniques in oral history.
A number of the book's articles somehow present a framework and introduction for oral history and the reader becomes familiar with the quality of the interviews. One of them is the article titled "An Analysis on Quantitative and Qualitative Methodology in Oral History" written by Ibrahim Abbasi and the other is "Standardizing Oral History interviews" by Abolfazl Hassanabadi.
In his article, Hassanabadi who is an expert in the Documents Center of Astan-e Qods Razavi has introduced the international standards of Humanities research and naturally oral history.
Also Yaqub Tavokkoli in a detailed article entitled "A Prolegomena on the Legal System of Interview in Oral History" gives the reader the interview's legal regulations. Morteza Mirdar explains about different stages of conducting an interview from the first meeting to the end in an article under the same heading.
Nosratollah Mahmoudzadeh in an article titled "The Interactions of Interviewer and Interviewee in Oral History" has studied and analyzed the duties of interviewer and interviewee.
The application of psychology in interview and the application of interview in psychology is one of the controversial and interesting discussions raised by Jafar Golshani Rowqani in the 4th oral history meeting. He has addressed ways of interaction between psychology and history by relying on the French modern historiography – Annales.
The articles by Seyyed Mohmmad Mirkazemi and Raheleh Sabouri were presented under the headings of "Oral History from the Viewpoint of Analogy in Language and Discourse" and "The Narrator's Tone" respectively. Both articles deal with the language and discourse of narrator and interviewer. Mirkazemi with a historical approach to the discourse system and review of the structure of word in language and society and the psychological review of discourse addresses the significance of language, dialect and tone in understanding mental conceptions in interview, and Raheleh Sabouri in a very charming and story-like article refers to observance of the narrator's dialect and language and stresses that it does not harm the original nature of the interview.
The projects in which the time distance are involved, various reasons including the drop in the reminding power of interviewee, insisting on the interviewer's question, personal judgments and rancor of  the interviewee, create many forms in registering the reality of an incident.  Removing such problems and obstacles or a correct planning for not facing them need the strong management of interviewer.
The honorable Noureddin Hosseini Sanabadi in an article under the heading "The Status of Interviewer in Recognition of Interview's Information" has talked about the interview's management while quoting a few personal experiences.
The article by Majid Jafari Lahiji is an experimental one entitled "An Experiment; Oral History Interviews of the Art of Revolution".
He has spoken about his experiences on ways of establishing connection with the interviewee and inducing information to him or her. 
In an article entitled "Interview in Oral History", Mohammad Ali Heidari Delgarm is another writer who has reviewed the problems of interviewing in the field of sacred defense.
The Center for War Research and Studies is one of the most active centers in oral history which has so far produced some 32000 interview tapes and reports about the war moments and the combatants and army servicemen in different ranks.
On the basis of the center's activities, Amir Razaqzadeh has presented an article entitled "Theoretical Bases, Principles, and Frameworks of Interview" in which he has explained about various methods of producing interviews while at the same has introduced the Center for War Research and Studies. The article is one of longest articles of the 4th oral history conference.
A number of participants in the 4th oral history conference for better understanding of their discussed subject have brought in their articles examples of their experiences in interview. Hamid Davoodabadi is one of them. He in his article "Interview and Oral History" explains about the reasons behind the lost of oral history nature and the interviewers' weak points and has talked about his experience of interviewing the Secretary General of Lebanese Hezbollah Movement Seyyed Hassan Nasrollah in order to clarify the issue.
In another article entitled "Forty Years of Experience in Interview", Mahmoud Hakimi while presenting definitions from the conception of oral history, has said that the necessary condition for the oral historian is to be unbiased and impartial. Then he talks about the superiority of oral history over personal memories. And finally, Hakimi has added two memories of his interviews with historians to his article.
In this line, Ahmad Nowzari Farsangi has presented a more useful article with the same approach. At the beginning, he talks about his first interview in the final days of the sacred defense, referring to his first mistake in this regard and using it in the subsequent interviews. Nowzari in this article comments about all subjects presented in the 4th oral history conference which is a different article from this viewpoint.
Another different article is the one entitled "Interview in War Oral History by Focusing on Women". It has been authored by Leila Mohammadi. Her article is the result of personal experiences during several years of interview and compilation. Mohammadi has enumerated manners for the interviewers according to moral features of women during conducting an interview in order to establish more efficient and better connection because women in various layers of war in clothes of relief workers, nurse, wife or the mother of martyr and so on have had valuable memories.
History will be narrated for future generations whether it is told or written. This phrase is the beginning of an article Mustafa Izadi has written under the heading "Oral History and Case Study". In his article while referring to the advantage of colloquial historiography, he addresses the role and impact of the interviewer's pre-assumptions in interview.
Another article presented about the information rate of interviewers and interviewees is "Unassuming Narrators". It has been produced by Gholamreza Azari and focused on ways of electing the interviewees and sorting the information obtained from the interview according to the rate of importance. In view of Azari, targeted interviews in the form of useful projects provide us historical data far more reliable than the individual historiographies. There are projects in which the interview's destination is normal people but the collected subjects are very more useful than individual interviews with a number of officials.
Three articles have been published about the do's and don'ts of oral history. Mojtaba Rahmandoust in an article has determined do's and don'ts of choosing sources in oral history. Also Abbas Aqaee in an article entitled "30 Important Points about Interview" has explained in details about interviewer and interviewee. Ans Shokouh Sadat Samiee in an almost short article has mentioned the reader some points about do's and don'ts of interviewing the women.
"The Role of Imagination in Oral History Interview" is one of the last articles of the book. This article has also been written on the basis of personal experiences by Mahmoud Javan Bakht. The writer is of the view that what the narrator says in an interview should be reconstructed immediately in the writer's mind so that the impunities are extracted and the original facts come on the paper.
Also this mental illustration causes the narration's shortages to appear and the interviewer with this viewpoint can raise his or her questions on the basis of removing such shortages.
The two last articles have been adopted form foreign sources. The first one has been authored by Karim Jafari under the heading "Oral History in an Interview with Donald Ritchie". Ritchie is the history professor of the US Congress Research Department. He has interviewed many world politicians and in this article, has engaged in transferring his experiences.
The last article is a translation of the book "Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History" authored by Judith Moyer. Moyer is also one of the well-known professors in the field of oral history who has written numerous education books in this regard. Amir Masoud Shahramnia and Saeedeh Yaraqi Isfahani have presented the translation along with an adoption.
As mentioned, the 4th Specialized Conference and Oral History Workshop was held with the contribution of the History Department of Isfahan University, Iran Revolution Document Center, Iran National Library and Document Organization, and The Organization of Libraries, and Museums and Document Center of Astan-e Qods Razavi in February 2008 and the collection of its article was published for the first time in 2009 by Sureh Mehr Press in 513 pages. 



 
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