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Workshop Oral History – Methodological challenges of collecting oral histories in South-Eastern Europe

Methodological challenges of collecting oral histories in South-Eastern Europe

Date: September 12, 2014 // 13.00-17.00 + drinks after
Venue: NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Amsterdam
Language: English
Organisation: Erasmus Studio, Erasmus University Rotterdam / Oral History Working Group Huizinga Institute, University of Amsterdam
Registration is necessary, send an email to

Interviewing witnesses of past or recent conflicts brings along considerable methodological concerns, related to ethical, political, judicial and personal issues. The time lapse between the violent events and the act of collecting witness accounts for the historical record seems to become shorter, with inevitable consequences for the safety of the respondents and the impact of their narratives. At the same time the digital turn has created the potential to spread, share and re-use material on an unprecedented scale. Assessing priorities when it comes to disclosing historical injustices is a daunting task. Questions that arise are: how should interviewees be selected and interviews be prepared? How to deal with working with traumatized people? In the case sensitive information is conveyed, how should this be treated, stored and shared? How are the results of the research communicated to the interviewees at the end of the process?

Although a full account of the oral history methodology should include a rigorous analysis of the actual practice, researchers seldom get the change for an open exchange about the uncertainties of this human-centered methodology. This workshop intends to create such an environment by offering young researchers the chance to get feedback on their work from experienced scholars. The workshop will bring together a number of  MA/PhD candidates working with oral history interviews collected in the Balkan region. They will have the opportunity to present their work and this will be commented on by a number of experts from the fields of genocide studies, archival studies, oral history and digital archives.

The following researchers will present their work:

  • Heleen Touquet on the narratives of the Bosnian diaspora in Belgium and the Netherlands
  • Arlinda Rrustemi on lifestories related to state-building in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo
  • Kim Oskam on victims of rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Maja Coric on perpetrator narratives in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Laura Boerhout on how the youth deals with the legacy of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina

They will receive feedback from:

  • Prof. Dr. Selma Leyedesdorff -University of Amsterdam – oral history and Bosnia’s survivor narratives
  • Dr. Nanci Adler – NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies – oral history and Gulag history
  • Prof. Dr. Eric Ketelaar – University of Amsterdam – Emiritus Professor Archivistics
  • Dr. Stef Scagliola – Erasmus University Rotterdam – oral history and digital archives

We wholeheartedly welcome anyone interested in this topic to attend this workshop.


Unfortunately, due to family circumstances Maja Coric will not be able to present her work. Prof. Selma Leydessdorf has kindly offered to substitute her and will present an introduction on her oral history approach during her field work in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Below you can find the outline of the program:

13.00-13.15 – Welcome
13.15-13.45 – Introduction by prof. Selma Leydesdorff on her experiences with interviewing the women from Srebrenica
13.45-14.15 – Presentation 1 by Kim Oskam
14.15-14.45  – Presentation 2 by Laura Boerhout
14.45-15.00 – Coffee Break
15.00-15.15 – Presentation 3 by Arlinda Rrustemi
15.15-15.45 – Presentation 4 by Heleen Touquet
15.45-16.45 – Plenary Discussion
16.45- 17.45 – Drinks