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Volume: 36, Issue: 2 (2008)
On Being A ‘Good’ Interviewer: Empathy, Ethics And The Politics Of Oral History
This paper explores ethical and political questions involved in interviewing informants defined simultaneously as ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ of past violence. It recognises the political urgency of oral history interviews with subjects marginalised or oppressed by traditional historical narratives. It also stresses the important work on power dynamics in the oral history interview and in particular the impact of feminist oral history. In light of the increased influence memory studies and models of interviewing as witnessing and testimony, however, the article cautions against the tendency for interviewers to identify too closely with victims of past violences. With examples from experiences of interviewing female supporters of political violence in the Basque country, the article argues the need to consider the complexities of empathy and emotion in the interview setting, and the importance of distinguishing between empathy and solidarity in oral history.
Author(s): Carrie Hamilton
Keywords: empathy, emotion, ethics, feminism, memory, solidarity

Coming To The End Of The Line? Identity, Work And Structures Of Feeling
This article seeks to explore the link between work and social identity. It comes from a study of 120 work-life histories collected from respondents in three occupational sectors: railways, teachers, banking. These oral testimonies form the core of the research project and are instrumental in constructing a theoretically informed empirical analysis on the topic of work and its contemporary significance. This article asks some preliminary questions about how to examine and scrutinise these work-life histories through aspects of narrative analysis that then helps explore ‘structures of feeling.’ Key to this is some understanding of narrative structures and language in use, and the article draws on the work of Raymond Williams and Valentin Volosinov to illuminate these concerns.
Author(s): John Kirk
Keywords: work-life histories; structures of feeling; dialogics; narrative

Narratives Of South Asian Muslim Women In Leicester 1964-2004
This article draws on interviews with South Asian Muslim women and explores the narratives of suffering, which were used to articulate their gendered experiences of growing up in the household and their encounters with Islamophobia following September 11th. It is argued that, in the process of analysis, it is important to attend to other features of the narrative, such as the trajectory of the life story, to highlight moments of negotiation and agency, to contextualise the interviews with secondary sources, and to reflect on the role of the interview relationships. This helps to avoid reproducing misunderstandings about South Asian Muslims and ultimately challenges stereotypes that Muslim women are helpless victims or that Muslims are self-segregating.
Author(s): Joanna Herbert And Richard Rodger
Keywords: Narratives, cross-cultural interview, Islamophobia, South Asian Muslims

Memory And Silence In The Vietnamese Diaspora: The Narratives Of Two Sisters
In one of the largest and most visible diasporas of the late twentieth century, approximately two million Vietnamese left their homeland after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and made new lives for themselves overseas. This article examines the experiences of two sisters who escaped from Vietnam in 1978 and lost their only brother at sea during the journey. A third sister also escaped but has since died of cancer. The narratives of the two surviving sisters reveal distinct interpretations of past traumas, as well as the silences in their lives. Their retellings crisscross and shape each other to paint a multifaceted portrait of sibling relationships, the experience of exodus, the pain of loss, and the challenges of moving on.
Author(s): Nathalie Nguyen
Keywords: Vietnamese diaspora; refugees; memory; sisters; silence; trauma

Land, Identity, School: Exploring Women’s Identity With Land In Scotland Through The Experience Of Boarding School
This study explores the effects of private British boarding school on women landowners’ identity and their relationship to the land. In noting how the private British boarding school system and the Empire were symbiotically related, it discusses how the ruling class were shaped within boarding institutions that cultivated hegemonic superiority and self-perpetuating patterns of subjugation and domination. Boarding school ethos has played a key role in maintaining these ‘norms’ of power as the young strive for place and identity within hierarchical, closed environments. Using a indepth qualitative, grounded theory approach, eleven women in Scotland shared their stories with the primary researcher, all of whom were ex-boarders and experienced being removed from their home environment usually in pre-adolescence. Almost exclusively, these women felt that their sense of identity had been damaged whilst being formed in the process. In adulthood, they felt possessive and territorial in arguably compensatory ways over their land, space and privacy. This possibly sheds light on dynamics of landownership that extend beyond usual considerations of economics and status. The study both commences and concludes by noting the implications for people-land relationships in the light of Scotland’s land reform process.
Author(s): Chriss Bull, Alastair Mcintosh And Colin Clark
Keywords: land reform; boarding school; identity formation; women; psychohistory

Whose Community?: The Shaping Of Collective Memory In A Volunteer Project
The great majority of recent community oral projects, particularly those currently supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, are carried out by volunteers primarily interested in local history rather than in academic research. This has been a major change brought through the growth of local oral history activity since the 1980s. By contrast, earlier most community studies were carried out by social researchers, mainly anthropologists and sociologists, who had their own intellectual traditions, and sought through their investigations to confirm or develop these wider perspectives. What is the significance of this change for our understanding of community history? This paper is a reflection on three ways in which different approaches bring different results. The first is the choice of who to interview, and how this is shaped by local factors. The second is the content of the interview, and the censorships which take place both in the interview and afterwards. The third is the relationship with the local audience, which turns out to be equally strong with both types of project. Lastly, the authors appeal for more sharing of the findings of community projects as a contributions to our understanding of wider social change.
Author(s): Paul Thompson and Brenda Corti
Keywords: community studies; networks;self-censorship; sharing findings; volunteers

Public History
Oral History On Television: A Restrospective
At the 2006 Oral History Society conference, historian and documentary film producer Steve Humphries spoke about his experiences developing and producing oral history programmes for television over the last twenty-five years. This is an edited transcript of the talk. Humphries outlines the rise and fall (and rise again) of interest in oral history among those who commission television programmes, drawing attention to the role of individual documentary pioneers such as Stephen Peet, whom this event commemorates – as well as the influence of new technology and audience research – in driving some of the major shifts in television history programming. In the process of this overarching narrative he argues that oral history is particularly important for at least three reasons: it provides access to unique stories, although often with a deeper social significance; that it packs considerable emotional power; and finally, as people’s history, oral history has been a major force for the democratisation of history on television.
Author(s): Steve Humphries
Keywords: Television; oral history; interviewing; audience and market research; technology

The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia
Author(s): Orlando Figes

Women Migrants From East to West: Gender, Mobility and Belonging in Contemporary Europe
Author(s): Luisa Passerini, Dawn Lyon, Enrica Capussotti and Ioanna Laliotou (eds)

Testimonies of the City: Identity, Community and Change in a Contemporary Urban World
Author(s): Richard Rodger and Joanna Herbert (eds)

History And Memory, Geoffrey Cubitt n Oral History and Public Memories
Author(s): Paula Hamilton and Linda Shopes (eds)

Memorial Museums: The Global Rush to Commemorate Atrocities
Author(s): Paul Williams

Helmand: The Soldiers’ Story
Author(s): National Army Museum, London

Oriel 1, St Fagans
Author(s): National History Museum, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Cardiff

A Rage in Dalston
Author(s): Alan Dein (Presenter) and Mark Burman (Producer)

Touch And Go: A Memoir
Author(s): Studs Terkel With Sydney Lewis