Wednesday 12 April 2023
11.00 - 13.00
Oral History and Methodology
Västra Hamngatan 25 AK2 138
Jesper Johansson :
Narratives of Belonging – Intersections of Place, Space and Time in Archived Migrant Narratives from the Collection MIGTALKs
This paper draws on recent work with archived interviews, previously published in the book (Migration and Cultural Heritage [in Swedish] by Thor Tureby & Johansson 2020). In the book, we developed a method for hearing and recognizing voices in archived interviews and analyzed them by using the concept of intersectionality ... (Show more)
This paper draws on recent work with archived interviews, previously published in the book (Migration and Cultural Heritage [in Swedish] by Thor Tureby & Johansson 2020). In the book, we developed a method for hearing and recognizing voices in archived interviews and analyzed them by using the concept of intersectionality from gender and migration studies. The aim of this paper is to use this oral history inspired method in combination with intersectionality to explore how asylum seekers and family migrants living and residing in Sweden narrated about their feelings of belonging and not belonging in places, spaces and times that they live and previously have lived during their life course. Moreover, therefore, the concept of belonging, which is often used in relation to religious, ethnic, gender or class based groups (cf. Yuval-Davis 2011), is applied to narratives of intersected places, spaces and times of perceived inclusion and/or exclusion.
The empirical case study is the collection MIGTALKs digitally archived by Nordiska Museet in Sweden. MIGTalks was launched as a communications project by the Swedish Migration Agency in 2015. The project was executed throughout 2016 and 2017. MIGTalks was implemented through the interviewing of 100 individuals who had immigrated to Sweden between 2010 and 2015. The interviewees were defined and selected in relation to different entry categories (asylum seekers, labour migrants, family migrants, students, EU/ESS migrants, return migrants). Moreover, 13 institutions from the public sector and from civil society supported the initiative. MIGTalks was thus coming to life and mediated through a public thematic series of conversations between the migrants and representatives of the cooperating partners. The collected written interview transcriptions from the 100 life story interviews and news from different public events were published on the project’s website and were highlighted through other social media channels, such as Facebook (MIGTalks 2019). After the communications project was finished in 2017, the website of the project was closed, and the Swedish Migration Agency decided to donate all the materials from MIGTalks (digital and non-digital) to the archive of Nordiska Museet in Stockholm. (Interview with MIGTalks’s project manager, 22/2 2019).
In this paper I have selected to explore 40 life story interviews from the collection (consisting of individuals categorized as asylum seekers and family migrants). Further, this paper also draws on a combination of methods and approaches from oral history as well as critical and antiracist social work in exploring how asylum seekers and family migrants’ narrated feelings of belonging (inclusion) and non-belonging (exclusion) are about positionality and interactions between different groups that reside in particular places and communities. Understanding these narratives may help social workers, other welfare state professionals and community activists to engage better in promoting inter-community relationships, exchanges and pro-belong activities. (Show less)
Alexander Prenninger :
The Challenges of Secondary Analysis
A key characteristic of Oral History interviews since their beginning in the 1970s was the active involvement of historians in their creation. Today, however, many researchers use archived interviews conducted by others, often decades ago. This requires the consultation of accompanying materials such as interview guidelines, questionnaires and reports to ... (Show more)
A key characteristic of Oral History interviews since their beginning in the 1970s was the active involvement of historians in their creation. Today, however, many researchers use archived interviews conducted by others, often decades ago. This requires the consultation of accompanying materials such as interview guidelines, questionnaires and reports to gain insight into the conditions under which the interviews originated. However, tacit knowledge is not easily replaced with documentation and sometimes there is not much documentation available. Whilst this shift and its implications with regard to research on Nazism and the Holocaust have been noticed by some scholars, a suitable method for the secondary analysis of Oral History interviews for historical and cultural studies has yet to be developed.
The proposed paper will discuss the question which parameters for such secondary analysis of OH interviews are needed. These include a critical understanding of the methods and contexts of creating, processing and archiving of each interview. The encounters between interviewers and interviewees during the recording of the main U.S. collections – the Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive at the University of Southern California (VHA), the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University (FVA) and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. (USHMM) – as well as testimonies featured in the largest Oral History project on one single Nazi concentration camp, the Mauthausen Survivors Documentation Project (MSDP), were also shaped by the particular purposes, specialisations and curatorial preferences of the collecting institutions.
Different OH projects used different methods and pursued different objectives which were largely determined by political and institutional contexts. Changing interview methods like autobiographical life-story interviews vs interviews yielding to generate historical facts or open narrative interviews vs question-answer oriented interrogations effectuate different narrative results as does the interviewing of ‘experienced’ or ‘non-experienced’ speakers.
The paper will present recent findings and problems faced regarding the handling of a collection of the 850 interviews of MSDP. (Show less)
Irena Saleniece :
The Trajectory of Latvian Lives in the Context of Sovietization (1945-1991), in Oral History and Other Types of Historical Source
The incorporation of Latvia into the Soviet Union, first in 1941 and then again in 1944-5, was accompanied by the deliberate sovietisation of the local population. How the inhabitants of eastern Latvia (Latgale) took to this process is borne witness by their life histories in the collection held by the ... (Show more)
The incorporation of Latvia into the Soviet Union, first in 1941 and then again in 1944-5, was accompanied by the deliberate sovietisation of the local population. How the inhabitants of eastern Latvia (Latgale) took to this process is borne witness by their life histories in the collection held by the Oral History Centre of Daugavpils University (about 1200 interviews). In spite of the established limitations of oral history as a means of reproducing the reality of the past (the failings of human memory, the subjectivism of the interviewee, as well as the narrow horizon on past events conditioned by being a rank-and-file participant in the historical process) oral history is able to 'enliven' the picture of the past in a major way, filling it with emotional content. By reconstructing the biography of the people who were there, oral history enables the recreation of the totality a person's past life from his or her own point of view. The life history of a person, told by that person, makes it possible to avoid fragmentation, which is inevitable with the use of archival material (information on the various periods of Latvia's history being placed in different archives) and to envisage the internal relationships linking what has taken place. However, turning to the archives is also essential – for precision in the chronology and character of events, and also for broadening the framework of the narrative when it comes to communicating its social and political context, making it possible to assess the scale of one person's actions. Furthermore, research experience shows that it is also very useful to use the Soviet press, despite the censorship under which it operated. When following up the life trajectories of so-called 'simple people', most information can be found in small-circulation local publications, partly filled with factual information. In sum, only the complex use of different kinds of historical source makes it possible to uncover how local people adapted to the demands of the communist regime, to reconstruct fully and comparatively accurately the life of Latvians in the Soviet period of their history, and to show that, for all the apparent stability of their existence, the basic content of that existence was a never-ending and unresolvable conflict between the official and private aspects of their lives. (Show less)
Samira Saramo :
Mapping the Feelings of Finnish Migrant-Settler Places & Stories
Over generations, Finnish migrants in the Canadian province of Ontario have built the stories and places of their collective history of settlement. Feelings – emotions and senses – are at the core of these narratives and are embedded into the places they tell of. In this presentation, I seek to ... (Show more)
Over generations, Finnish migrants in the Canadian province of Ontario have built the stories and places of their collective history of settlement. Feelings – emotions and senses – are at the core of these narratives and are embedded into the places they tell of. In this presentation, I seek to explore the ways the many feelings of these personal and community narratives and historic places can be mapped. I contend that the creation of a multilayered digital map offers the potential of understanding Finnish migrant life stories and oral history narratives in new ways that engage meaningfully with the implications of claiming place and belonging in the context of settler colonialism. This presentation offers a methodological reflection of how combining life-writing sources, oral history interviews, soundscape recording, sensory auto/ethnographic fieldwork, and digital visualizations are developing my historical research practice. As part of this, I will discuss how collaboration with Sound Artist Zoe Gordon has further pushed my thinking on the ways we engage with life stories and oral histories. This work is part of my current research project, “Deep Mapping Finnish Migrant-Settler History” (Kone Foundation, 2020-2024). (Show less)
Petra Schindler-Wisten :
The Role of the Interviewer in Longitudinal Oral History Project
The paper is focused on the project The Student Generation of 1989 from Longitudinal Perspective: Biographical Interviews after Twenty Years. It presents a continuation of the successful project Students at the Time of the Fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia (1997-1999), which consisted of conducting one hundred interviews with former student ... (Show more)
The paper is focused on the project The Student Generation of 1989 from Longitudinal Perspective: Biographical Interviews after Twenty Years. It presents a continuation of the successful project Students at the Time of the Fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia (1997-1999), which consisted of conducting one hundred interviews with former student leaders involved in the events of November 1989. Now we return to the same group of narrators exactly after 20 years in order to present crucial findings relating to questions of the transformation of remembering and memory processes of the studied group. In this paper I will show some methodological aspects of OH longitudinal research, especially the role of the interviewer.
Just one member of our team (Interviewer Nr.1) was conducted interviews in the original project and now after 20 years he has realized interviews with the same twenty narrators. Life changes have taken place by the narrators but also by the interviewer, who is actually their generation companion.
The narrators know him for a long time, a strong relationship of trust was build up, but on the other hand it requires a great deal of responsibility to narrators.
The other research team members were new in this project. Thus, phenomena that are still unexplored do come into play: the "returning" interviewer, or the "new" interviewers, gender issues (the team is 7:2 in favour of women), the question of age (the average age of new team members is about 35 years), above all, and it is necessary to emphasize the difference in perception of our interviewers by our narrators. In fact, it is a kind of experiment, an important re-reflection, which could serve similarly designed projects not only in our country but also abroad, where a similar project has not yet been implemented.
Our initial fears that, as new interviewers, we will be at a disadvantage have disappeared during the research. Although Interviewer Nr.1 actually had a simpler position in many respects, he acted as a self-confident interviewer, in many cases with friendly ties to the narrator, etc., but the advantage of the new team is also in the neutrality and personal burden of part of its members by the past project. (Show less)