Typology of Oral History (2)

Co-narration; collective narrative in basic narrative

Morteza Nouraie (PhD)
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


The transformation of the oral history from elitism point of view to the social structures; from soldiers and infantry forces to the workers and employees of administrative agencies and female workers in factories, can bring oral history to its natural sphere and be the means of its development and update in Iran.

On the other hand, the social structure involves a wide range of communities who are less interested in the secondary affairs of their lives and culture and more constantly engaged in their current affairs. It seems that part of the budget should be spent on their lost, but fertile and influential worlds. At the same time, it must be said that to some extent in such efforts, results might be difficult to achieve, especially in the field of documentation. On the other hand, in their daily busy lives and their concerns, there is no time for recording and everything is "as far as it is remembered."

The experience of interviews with these people shows that there is always a chronological interruption, making it even difficult to assign events to accurate times. Therefore, in order to divert the existing approach from elitism and mythologizing towards the "ordinary people" an effective strategy is to be adopted to avoid harms and damages. In this context, interview might be considered as the basis of oral history. The type of interview, in a different category, might be a means to avoid damage and harm: collective interview.

Since documentation, for example, for workers, soldiers or infantry forces is limited, it is better to try to initiate a collective narrative based on the "collective experience" in a collective conversation from the outset and promote the level of narrative validity. In this case, the interview result companion “frequency in news” which promotes the credibility of a historical narrative is more or less provided.

Again, experience shows that interview with several individuals (collective interviews) on a single or even diverse subjects is an opportunity for correction, and each individual fills the gaps of the narratives of others through addressing neglected aspects and complete them which are either confirmed or endorsed by the audience. The possibility of collusion in collective narratives is rare. Although, in the emotional atmosphere of a collective dialogue, the "co-op" may be largely controllable.

The result of a collective interview is in fact cross-sectional narratives that take a coherent form in co-narration. Here, it seems that the outcome of the narration of the participants is in fact the narrative that the interviewer creates. In other words, it is the interviewer who, through questioning the narrators, comes up with the basic narrative which is validated by referring to their co-narrations. This basic narrative is the historical-literary read of the interviewer (or editor) of all the scenes of the conversation. This mechanism, actually, avoids the complexity of multiple, continuous, and discontinued narratives, and establishes an appropriate relationship with the reader. Meanwhile, the creator of the text traverses the oral history trajectory and leaves oral memoir production to reach oral history. To clarify the co-narration in oral history, a few points should be taken into consideration:

  • The collective narratives can be the outcome of an interviewer's dialogue with several people, or various interviewers with several narrators. This method was widely used by the oral historians of the 70s. Therefore, it is an original and an acceptable pedigree between the oral historians. In particular, this mechanism and its outcomes have become very popular with women and workers. It would be great if those well versed in this method in Iran to be informed of the works done by the pioneers and initiators of oral history at the global level and not to overthrow such a good practice.
  • The process of negotiation and dialogue, or in other words, the extraction of collective interviews is in fact a technical trajectory, which inevitably requires special skills that the interviewer / interviewers should be armed with. In fact, the engineering of such a meeting is complicated and requires the proper distribution of questions and time from one side and, on the other hand, the observance of the fairness in between the narrators, so that no one is left behind. In addition, according to the interview process, questions must be comprehensible for all and at the general level of understanding of the participants. In addition, even the sitting arrangement is to be closely considered so that nobody suffers absenteeism while being present.
  • In fact, integration of co-narration is not easy, since it is both costly and time-consuming. On the one hand, gathering informed people at a specific location, which might actually be named as the "subject location", and on the other hand, team arrangements for active negotiation, all can be more than all time-consuming. Perhaps the question arises that “how much is history checking worth?” It's hard to value these types of works, because such works are milestones. But there are a few that value such efforts. As a historian, I have to say that time has always appreciated genuine and effective work: we should be prospective. Of course, this providence is not individual, but a kind of collective wisdom and requires public investment. Moreover, as the global practice, undoubtedly, governmental organizations and institutions should be the main investors in such works since these types of researches are usually considered as fundamental and long-term researches. Hence, both the private sector and development planners are disregarding the cost of such plans: the life of responsibility and management is short in this sector.

Typology of Oral History (1)

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