It is often said that history is written by the victors. Because this kind of history is exclusive to the perspectives of those in power, it restricts us from understanding the past and, in turn, our relationship to history and its place in the present.
How can Oral History offer a different perspective on the past? How can Oral History change our relationship to the past and fill the gaps in the historical record?
Warm-up (15 minutes):
We think about and discuss the significance of oral history in general and its correlation with our field of work and context in particular.
Group Work (20 minutes):
The participants are divided into 6 groups and each group is handed a copy of Handout 5: Why is Oral History Important.
Each group is assigned one of the 6 reasons that make oral history important.
The participants of each group prepare a visualization (drawing, graph, or image) on a flip chart to clarify the idea and to think of ways to apply it in their context.
Group Presentations (30 minutes):
Each group hangs its flip chart on the wall, and is given 5 minutes to present their findings.
Plenary Discussion (25 minutes):
The points discussed are summarized, and Handout 6: Paul Thompson’s Definition of Oral History is distributed. This handout offers another definition of oral history, a bit removed from the scientific and leaning more towards the inter-personal.
We read the paragraph together and highlight how Thompson focuses on the process of oral history and the intertwined personal relations that form – between teachers, students, social classes, and the elderly – clarifying a different research methodology and an understanding of the past.
Finally, we present examples of Oral History interviews, gathered and preserved as archives, on the Palestine Oral History Archive (POHA) website (link below).
Morrissey, Charles. “Oral History Interviews: From Inception to Closure,” in The Handbook of Oral History, eds. Thomas L. Charlton, Lois E. Myers, and Rebecca Sharpless (Landham, MD: Altamira Press, 2006), pp. 170-206.
Perks, Robert and Alistair Thomson, The Oral History Reader, 2nd edition (New York: Routledge: 2006).
Portelli, Alessandro. “What Makes Oral History Different,” The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991), pp. 45-58.
Ritchie, Donald. Doing Oral History (London: Oxford University Press, 2015).
Sharpless, Rebecca. “The History of Oral History,” in The Handbook of Oral History, eds. Thomas L. Charlton, Lois E. Myers, and Rebecca Sharpless (Landham, MD: Altamira Press, 2006), pp. 19-42.
Yow, Valerie. “Do I Like Them Too Much?”: Effects of the Oral History Interview on the Interviewer and Vice-Versa, The Oral History Review, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Summer 1997), pp. 55-79.