Oral History documents the experiences and memories of people, thereby placing the narrator at the center of its inquiry. Yet, as a living source, a narrator interacts with an interviewer, and it is this relationship that shapes the meaning-making process of Oral History.
What is the relationship between narrator and interviewer, and in turn their relationship to Oral History? How do we identify “the right” narrator for our project? How can we even locate narrators willing to share their personal experiences?
Warm-up (15 minutes):
We brainstorm participants’ ideas on how to find narrators, what kind of relationship is necessary between the interviewer and the narrator, and gather what participants might understand of the concept “shared authority” (check notes to facilitator and handout). Collect the answers on a flip chart paper or separate A4 papers to be visible throughout the session.
Group Work (35 minutes):
The participants form 4 groups and each group takes a copy of Handout 19: Selecting Narrators and chooses an Oral History interview from the links provided (see below). The groups watch 20 minutes (a little bit of beginning, middle, end) to get a feel for the interview.
Each group assesses the choice of the narrator in the interview based on the concept of shared authority and the questions listed in the handout.
The following are the four interview links:
Group Presentations (40 minutes):
Each group shares its findings in a 10-minute presentation based on the questions in the handout, and shows a brief excerpt of the interview to illustrate the group’s ideas and conclusions. We, as facilitators, add any criteria the groups mention to the flip chart or A4 sheets we collected during the warm-up and keep them for future sessions.
Frisch, Michel, “Sharing Authority: Oral History and the Collaborative Process,” The Oral History Review, Winter – Spring, 2003, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Winter – Spring, 2003), pp. 111-113
Shopes, Linda “Commentary: Sharing Authority,” The Oral History Review, Winter – Spring, 2003, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Winter – Spring, 2003), pp. 103-110
Michael Frisch, A Shared Authority (SUNY Press, 1990)
Institute of Oral History, Baylor University Selecting Narrators