Impact of time on oral history

Hamid Qazvini
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

2018-01-23


Dominant political and cultural trends are a serious threat to memoir recording and oral history since they surpass the perspective and judgment of the narrator concerning individuals and various issues. The impact is sometimes so bold that comparison of the narrations during such times to the previous versions reveal serious differences. This has been prevalent in the memoirs of the Islamic Revolution and the Holy Defense or people.

 

Change as a strong point

However, change of attitude is due to new information coming to light surrounding an event which is desirable. For instance, in some cases, the individual might feel that he/she has been the only victim of a terrorist attack and has now realized that there were other victims. Or a soldier might feel that his unit was the only surviving unit in the fronts and is now aware that there were others fighting alongside. Obviously, such changes not only do not harm the oral history but are strong points in the interview.

 

Change as a harm

Once the narrator is affected by the surrounding events of the time recounting his/her memories then the credibility of his/her narration is compromised. Obviously, during time and due to various events, political and social trends or even personal issues he/she is exposed to upheavals; some of which he might support but yet such changes are not a proper reason to change attitude towards a historical event. Oral history is the limpid narration of people from the events in the past and political and social dominant situations are not to surpass them.

 

Recommendations

In order to mitigate harm the following are recommended:

  1. At the beginning of an interview, stress the value and importance of honesty and fair judgment against history, indirectly.
  2. The interviewer shall be dominant over the intended subject.
  3. If possible, the scholar shall review the narrator’s previous interviews.
  4. It should be clearly stated at the beginning that the perspective and beliefs of the narrator at the time of the event is required.
  5. In case the narrator is willing to state his/her new perspective then it has to be distinguished. For instance it should be stated that I believed then and now I believe that…
  6. The narrator shall be assured that his/her memories will not be published unless his permission is attained and he/she shall not worry of probable side stories.
  7. Detailed questions shall be asked to avoid over generalization and denial or change of truths.
  8. Ask the narrator during the interview whether this has been his/her perspective in the past or what he/she believes now.
  9. The narrator should be asked to merely recount his/her memories and observations and avoid irrelevant and less pertinent side stories. 


 
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