Oral history, critical theory and politics: Rethinking first impressions
Down, B. (1990) Oral history, critical theory and politics: Rethinking first impressions. Oral History Association of Australia Journal (12). pp. 76-83.
Often, oral history is viewed as simply the evocation and recording of spoken memories of the past. Viewed in this way, the critics of oral history, not least of all some historians, have contended that oral accounts of 'idle talk' cannot be regarded as a serious academic pursuit. Many oral historians have responded to such criticism by attempting to replicate the empiricist methodology of the social sciences. This means treating people and events as objects, adopting a neutral position, and refusing to acknowledge the human dimension of knowledge construction.
My point of departure is that history-writing, in its broadest sense, .is either implicitly or explicitly informed by social theory. Following McLennan's call for a more co-operative project between theoretical and empirical modes of enquiry the concern is to elaborate the inter-relationship between oral history and theory (1982, p.152). Of particular interest is the potential usefulness of what may be loosely labelled 'critical theory'
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