The training of oral history in Isfahan

From pre-interview to tactics of the first questions

Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by Fazel Shirzad


 Note: As oral history website reported, the fourth workshop of the "first training course of oral history" was held by the effort of Assarkhaneh[1] Museum, the center of studies for Isfahan's folk culture, and with the speech of doctor Abolhassani  Taraqi in Sheikh Bahaee technical library of art and  Isfahanology on 31 Tir 1396 (2017-07-22)


Dr. Abolhassani, in the workshop, speaks about the required preliminary of oral history and how it can be done as follows: "it is need to have an identity for interview. The identity of interview is more important than interview. The identity of interview come in the beginning and end of interview and compiled according to your interview. "Project tittle" is the first point should be determined in an interview. For example, if we are doing a project for mayoralty of Isfahan" it should be determined who is protector and taskmaster of the project? When you are doing an interview for yourself, it is different to do. For this purpose, a keyword should be written on identity to show that protector and executor of project are same. For example, we write "the oral history archive of Abolhassani Taraqi, the project of Isfahan market's oral history." The project of oral history needs to be invested by a governmental or private institutions.

The second point of identity is that "narrator" should be mentioned in. In other words, after saying the name of taskmaster of project and the name of project, the second sentence should be written as follows: "interview with Mr./Mrs.…" the first and last name of interview should be write completely. One of problem, as I encountered with it in the projects of oral history, is that the first and last name are not mentioned really. Even, the surname of interviewee should be mentioned. These are important in documentation. In some tradition and ancient cities (e.g. Isfahan) most last name are involved in surnames, though some interviewees mention their surname, but some don't. The last name and surname of interviewees are originated from their habitations or hometowns, or these name are derived from their ancestor. These surnames are important historically and sociologically.



After mentioning the name of project and narrator, "time" of interview should be mentioned. For this for this purpose date, day and time of interview should be mentioned accurately. For example, it should not be written 4 p.m., but 16 p.m. next, the place and address of interviewee should be mentioned. The name of interviewer, in the identity, is the last part i.e. the first and last name of interviewer.  


Network interview

Dr. Abolhassani said about the important of the identity; "sometimes, an interview can be done well, but it is not clear who made that interview exactly; the name of narrator or project is not mentioned. The interview is as a research; the identity of interviews can be used for the research. The characteristics of identity can be used for two: first, when the interview is to be archived. Second, when it is used in an article or book. It is possible the narrator or interviewee to deny all of his words, but if the interviewer has an exact address, the interviewee couldn’t deny to words. The narrator, of course, can correct and edit some details (e.g. names) while reading and controlling the next. If you make an important interview with no identity, you won't be able to use of it.

To start interview, it is better to have a rule for yourself, you can begin the interview in the name of "God". It depends what habits of speaking you have and how you start a conversation. Try to start an interview with biography. I write about some advantages of biography in articles:" the first step of an interview". Biography leads interviewees to past; it make a feel of nostalgic in them, it makes a sense of kinship and relation and causes interviewer not to begin an interview with main subject immediately in this way. Ideally, it is better to do pre-interview before an interview to be familiar with his or her first and last name, job etc., and introduce herself/himself and give undertaking others, the age of narrator should be asked. If the interviewer have already prepared a form to be signed by interviewee, get it with you. Sometimes, of course, providing the legal ownership form develop a sensitivity in interviewee, it is enough to make a warm greeting with interviewee. The interviewer should begin to speak bout biography with his or her birthday, because the interviewer question should be based on the age of narrator. For example, she is 85 years old. When an interviewee is 50 years old, s/he cannot be asked the question related to seventy years ago, especially in historical and political interviews. Interviewer should asked about the past event of interviewee's life as much as possible. Interviewer can use of a simple method or indirect. But, a network interview is a successful one. In other words, an interview should be done up and sown.

Dr. Abolhassani added:" if it is to do interview for one session, we will make a division for time; interviewer can spend the first 10 minutes for biography of narrator. When the interviewer get this step, most barriers of interview will be removed. If you are man of study or have relation with people, you will be able to use of your findings and knowledge. An interview must be involved in a logical process. For some reason, ask only four questions; the fourth question show the secret aspects of her/his personality or you're considered subject. If you limited yourself to questions, you will pass through crucial moment of interview easily and perfunctory; you use of question gainfully, because interviewee may say some words which are useful historically.


The review of an interview

Dr. Abolhassani, in second section of the workshop, presented one of one his active interview with one porters of Isfahan's market; then he offers a partial explanation about the details of interview in oral history's project and the methods of asking question:" his name was Imamqoli. In the market, the family of Izadkhvast or Yazdkhvast, except in a few cases, includes as the members of porters, because they have being worked there for 110 to 120 years. These people were powerful physically and honest; these features were valuable, because the porter were being carried worth goods from one place to another place of city and market. Even, the hall keepers and caretakers of Isfahan were members of Izadkhvast’s family.

After Shahreza city towards Ababdeh, there is a historical village with special customs and dialect named "Yzadkhvast". The people of Yazdkhast use the words are very important for literates, linguists and ethnologists, Many of Persian original idioms, as mentioned in this interview, are used in their dialect.

Mentioning the necessity to know the family of narrator or interview, Dr. Abolhassani emphasizes: "today, I also know some people through the name of their fathers and grandfathers (e.g. Hussein Hajj Reza) in the old locality of Isfahan, when you ask what the interviewee's name is, s/he may say the name of his/her ancestors which are chosen as a last name for him or her. Each question is as an opportunity, and perhaps that interview is a last one; therefore you must to use of the opportunity as much as possible. Whenever, in interview, you are speaking about the properties of squirearchy, the interviewer shouldn’t take it easy, and should not speak about last issues (i.e. market and porters) immediately, but it is better that the interviewer follow the speech of interviewee and speak about the squireachy of Yazdkhvast. Even when interviewee point to the sheep's head & trotters store of the market, the interviewer can ask the name of store owner. One of feature of the market's system was that there were many special stores such as Sheep's Head & Trotters, Coffee Rice & Barbecue Store and Bakery.

In the pre-interview, I found that he like reading poem; so, in last part of the interview, I asked him to read poem and his heartfelt words. He read poem and sing, because it is important as well. The people of Yazdkhvast interest in poem. Each part of the interview can be used. In this perspective, I give interview permission to read poem. The interview read his poem in Maghami Folk Rhythm which is affective to know such song rhythm.

In the interview, some new aspects of the market also will be discovered; the porters carry the goods in a special way. They have especial ropes to carry the goods. These ropes have a part to be fastened on forehead; it presses the forehead and causes eyes to be damaged gradually. The porter are members of history and cannot be discovered. Even, I also him the name of those who make the ropes and the lamps of porters. When you speak with an aged man, you should consider the mood and patience of him; s/he can be bored very soon and don't show interest to continue the interview. If it is possible for you, you can do an interview twice or more with those who are appropriate for your purpose. But if you are able to do interview once, it is better to use opportunity well.

At the end of the fourth workshop of the "first comprehensive training course of oral history, it is ordained that the trainees do on free interview. In field of oral history as a sample for future workshop in groups with two people for 10 minutes.


A report from the 3rd Comprehensive Workshop on Oral History Training


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