The Political Claim of Oral History: On the Epistemic Silence and the Ontological Deafness of the Majority Society
Listening is the art of those who practice oral history. But do we hear what we are told? And can we adequately (re)present the voices of those we have interviewed? In this article, we critically examine this implicit political claim of oral history with the help of empirical case studies. Using interview collections on Dutch (post)colonial history and on the history of Hungarian Roma, we show how the social phenomenon under investigation already became visible in the research situation itself, namely that life narratives of marginalized people were always dependent on the knowledge production by the majority. We explore the dynamics between interviewers and interviewees in order to clarify which framing allows us to (not) hear voices. We thus analyze the epistemic silence and the ontological "deafness" of a society. As a summary, alternative methodological approaches are pointed out and a plea is made that participatory research must also be epistemic research. Our central concern is not to mark/label the "other" but the "own" and its ontological exclusion mechanisms more clearly and to put it on the agenda as an important future field of research.
Copyright (c) 2022 Nicole Immler, Eva Kovacs
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