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Course oral history and life stories

Course Oral History and Life Stories

Date: 10, 14, 17, 21, 24 January 2013, and possibly 6 February 2013
Time: 13:00 – 16:30
Venue: all dates, UB – Potgieterzaal (Amsterdam), except 17 January: Bungehuis 3.02 (Amsterdam)
Teacher: prof. dr. Selma Leydesdorff and selected guest speakers
Open to: PhD candidates and advanced RMA students
Fee (non members): €250
Credits: 3 ECTS
Max. number of participants: 15–THIS EVENT IS FULLY BOOKED

The course

Historians and others who interview about the past often  talk about memory and how they are informed by  memory, while they know memory is a difficult and problematic source of historical knowledge. During this course we shall concentrate on the use of memory in historical research. We will investigate the  of various efforts to create a more systematic  and theoretically grounded approach than ‘just talking about days long gone’. How can we create a research pattern that overcomes the incidental and replace it by an integration of the changing character of spoken narratives about the past? We shall also compare spoken memories with  other ego-documents, bearing in mind the many other existing and valid  ways of interviewing about personal experience. We shall analyse the creation of a particular kind of knowledge which produces alternative and unfamiliar viewpoints. While historical interviews ask a lot of research time, participants in this course will involve in questions like: Do I really need interviews, what do I want to know, are there other ways to get this kind of knowledge?

General starting-point for discussion is the study of life stories in oral history as a tradition in the humanities and in the social sciences. In due course, additional attention will be paid to alternative modes of in-depth interviews. Issues to be investigated in particular concern the questions of intersubjectivity; (self) reflection; identification with the Other and her/his past; and the interviewer’s role in the process of meaning/knowledge production. What are our responsibilities towards people we interview, do we have particular responsibilities in our research communities? What does it mean to be close to an interviewee, what happens if there is distance or when we don’t like what we hear? Do we have to agree with our interviewees?

Preparation, literature and assignments

The literature is composed of various articles, informing on how to organize a larger interview project, discussing how to analyse interviews. The various stages of such a large project will be followed. The list of literature is updated annually. There are always guest lecturers who explain how they overcome difficulties during their research, while the course also discusses more theoretical approaches.

An element becoming more important is the use of websites for the dissemination of narrated accounts and the making of interviews with the help of a camera.

As usual advanced researchers who want to refresh their knowledge with recent literature and who want to bring their problems and subjects to the discussion will be welcome. They are asked to accept a status in which they are equal with other participants. Students will be asked to prepare commentaries on the literature.

In order to prepare for the literature and the course, participants are asked to write a short motivation which informs the supervisor of the course about the direction of their research. Deadline: 15 December, 2012. Send to: