Oral History Tasks

oral history tasks
oral history tasks

The first task of oral history begins by filling in the gaps of written historical sources. Oral history fills in these gaps with testimonies collected of people who participated in or witnessed certain events. These documents are in turn subject to textual criticism and the exact same textual analysis applied to written documents.

This task is linked to intended dimensions of research in sociology, anthropology, psychology, linguistics and other sciences, and emphasizes the need for research in history to become interdisciplinary since interacting with these sciences affects social ties and the cultural dynamics they represent. Thus the recording of these stories or testimonies means the transfer of representations and living and developed dynamics that culture gives itself, during a specific period of time.

In addition to the first complementary task, oral history comes as a competitor and a critic of official and academic history, which was exclusively associated with political, military or religious aspects and their elites. This exclusive association has kept a large part of facts and events of life, in all areas, in the shadows, or were referred to in an accidental manner, to the point of losing its value in social history and the absence of whole segments, which became completely unknown in written documents, selectively under scientific bureaucratic claims. In contrast to this absence, marginalization and selectivity, the task of oral history is highlighted in the democratization of history and the act of writing it. It calls for the formation of a democratic history in which people, all people, are invited to participate and contribute to writing history by recording their testimonies and stories

Oral history, in this respect, is not only a tool and a method for reconstructing the past, but a theory that deeply reflects the political commitment to history and emphasizes that ordinary, marginalized and silent people also have history and that this history must be written. Oral history is on the front lines of democracy that informs subsequent generations of the testimony and memory of the generations that preceded it, including the elites, in all political, economic, cultural and administrative areas, through a detailed oral record of the real and mental history of the development course of their lives.

The third task of oral history is providing an opportunity to reinterpret and expand the historical event, because documenting how people lived, thought and understood events emphasizes the fact that what people think about an event is a historical event translated into behavior, actions and reactions. Behind these kinds of events, lies a path of evolution and a decision that must be considered in order to better understand the discontinuity and continuity that constitute history. Thus, oral history is a revision of classical axioms in history by emphasizing that written documents are not neutral and that in many cases their absence or marginalization are not coincidental, and that the written is no more objective than the oral, because in many cases the written forms the oral including historian’s perception of certain events.

Oral history is used as a method of expression of a conscious that is willing to stop wasting experiences and human lives that have witnessed, experienced or participated in past events and have not received much attention from later generations. This will also reflects a compensatory and remedial critique of the arbitrary disregard of important sectors of society, which were neglected by historians.

Oral history contributes to the formulation of the history of the present through its observation of current and present incidences, facts, events and information to reflect the features of the present era, whether documented or not.

Oral history, on the other hand, builds an oral archive. History is not writing a narrative, biography or event, nor the collection of oral testimonies about it, but in its deepest perspective, it is an opportunity to build a recorded memory for the purpose of research, exploration and analysis for future generations to use, thereby enhancing the evolving cognitive perspective with time, and the vision that history goes beyond the framework of final definition and interpretation.

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