The 7th virtual meeting of Iranian oral history

Principles, Frameworks, and Standards of Conducting Oral History – 6

Compiled by: Iranian Oral History Website
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


Note: The 7th oral history meeting was held at the Clubhouse and Tarikhgar Rome on Saturday, December 23, 2021, under the management and hosting of Dr. Mehdi Farahani Monfared and performed by Mrs. Mosffa. In this meeting, Dr. Abolfazl Hassanabadi, Morteza Rasulipour, Dr. Habibullah Esmaili, and Dr. Mehdi Abolhasani Targhee spoke about the issue of oral history standards in theory and practice.




In the continuation of the meeting, Dr. Farahani Monfared asked Dr. Abolhasani to talk about the topic of the discussion, i.e., the principles, frameworks, and standards of conducting oral history, and their views on how they think about the subject and what the principles, frameworks, or standards of conducting oral history are.

Dr. Abolhasani: The first principle about the framework of oral history is the discussion of the time period that oral history can cover; Considering the fact that Western researchers accept up to three generations of narrators as sources of oral history narration. That, for example, I quote from my father and my father from his grandfather and I quote from them. The first principle is that it should be in the period of contemporary history and especially its later part. Because when we say contemporary history, our assumption is from the beginning of the Qajar era and from the wars between Iran and Russia, but certainly in that period of time 200 or 220 years ago, we cannot use the consistent mechanism of oral history because those actors, activists, perpetrators or witnesses are not present This is the first and most important principle in the framework of oral history.

This is why I say that sometimes in some of these conferences or scientific groups that do or held oral history work, sometimes a person came and spoke about the oral history of the ancient aqueducts of a certain region. If this aqueduct is from the ancient period and those who dug these aqueducts are from several centuries ago, we cannot at all in the field of oral history talk about the pitman and those who dug the aqueduct and say that they are alive today. It is not possible to have their oral history; But we can talk about the techniques that were used until recently. But talking about a thousand-year-old or two-thousand-year-old aqueduct is out of this context.

The second issue I mentioned is that the same actors, activists, perpetrators, monitors and witnesses must be present and we can enter that area on the condition that one of these groups is available to us. Exactly what we say in the research method: it means that the subject you want to choose can be done. Find sources and references and main and secondary books about it. This also applies to oral history. In the discussion of issues, we should pay attention to different areas and fields from political history to social, cultural, economic, educational, artistic and its various branches.

Since I am working on social history, I try to work on topics that are less discussed or that we may not have written sources, reports, memories, travelogues or even documents about them. One case that I worked on myself is the discussion of the oral history of Isfahan religious boards. This was also due to the fact that no work had been done on religious delegations in Isfahan and we did not have a specific report about these delegations in almost any document. I did this because of their importance and position in the social, economic, cultural and even political life of Isfahan city.

In Tehran, regarding what has been worked on in the Islamic Revolution Documentation Center under the title of religious delegations, it is as follows that they specifically worked on some of those delegations where the revolutionary forces or some of those groups such as the allied forces were present in these delegations. And somehow they chose and paid attention to political issues. In the oral history of religious groups, their essence and nature, which were popular organizations, and how they were formed in contemporary history, especially since 1300, have not been paid attention to. The time period that I worked in is from 1300 to 1357, that is, until the Islamic Revolution, and fortunately, I had enough knowledge of the narrators that I chose considering that I had my own life experience. The age range of my narrators was over 70 years. I even found 102-year-old, 100-year-old and 98-year-old narrators and I tried to follow the principles of the work.

This is a topic that has not been worked on at all and now many points come out of it. For example, in Isfahan itself, from here we found the clue of the role of religious delegations during the nationalization of the oil industry in gatherings and meetings, and then we went to the documents. That is, exactly the opposite of what we often recommend and order, when we go to do research, see documents and find relative elites through research, then we go to interviews. This has been the case for a long time. That is, first we have to conduct preliminary interviews, find clues, and then look for documents in those ranges and time periods.

Another case in the discussion of social and cultural history is the traditional refrigerators of Isfahan, which had not been worked at all. Again, I worked on its oral history, but it was not enough to want to publish it independently as the oral history of Isfahan's traditional refrigerators. I used the data of that project, which was also a pure subject and had not been worked on in any way. Because the traditional glaciers of Isfahan are different from the glaciers of Yazd, Kerman, Semnan and other places. They are dome and vestibular, but the shape of traditional Isfahan glaciers was different due to the method of ice production. It also seemed to me that it was a subject that really had memories of it in the minds and hearts of the old people, and in cities like Isfahan or even Tehran or other cities, we still have passages and alleys and passages called the glacier, and today if one of their residents If we ask, they don't know why they named them refrigerators.

In the field of social history, I went to these issues, from which I found very interesting cultural issues of common culture and what we call folklore. In the discussion of the oral history of the Isfahan market, I was also faced with this issue, and in my opinion, there were many outputs and the added value that came out of these issues was very good. Those frameworks that we have in this discussion of social histories, that is, the interviewer or the interviewer being native, the one who gives the plan, designs, implements, being native, familiarity with the culture of that region, knowing local history, knowing contemporary history, These are among the basic principles that I think can be taken into account in oral history projects that are somehow related to local history. That is, it is one of the basic principles that must be followed if one wants to achieve a relative success.

Regarding my work, I will say without a doubt that no work will be free of defects and mistakes. Now, if we want to enter into other issues and their details, it is very detailed. I have a series of short articles on where and how to start an interview and what the characteristics of an interview are that were published in Oral History Weekly. These are the points that I believe in and follow exactly in my plans.

            One of the points that I adhere to in every project I want to implement is that I do not lead my narrators to the main topic in the first interview sessions; rather, as in a historical research and research, we provide the background and introduction of the Chinese research and its historical contexts and then address the subject, first I go to the origin and lineage of the narrator, his family roots, his hometown and the social environment in which he was formed. This way of working that I do brings good results. That is, in the case that we call gaining the narrator's trust, if we act in this way, the other person's trust will be gained a lot, because somehow he will remember his past and his elders.

What we call memory of the past, nostalgia and sadness of the past shows itself here. The history therapy that we believe in and that we discuss as one of the benefits of studying history, shows itself here and gets the satisfaction of the narrator, which makes him trust us more and facilitates the continuation of the interview. Now the narrator wants to be a warrior, or a bazaar, or an activist in religious groups, or even a political person. Of course, there are examples where people avoid telling their family history for any reason. They also have their own techniques and skills in which way and at what stage of our interview sessions we use those techniques.


 To be continued…


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