The Oral History Interview – A Relationship and Space of Trust

Abstract

The oral history interview is a “multi-layered communicative event”. It is a unique, active event, reflective of a specific culture and of a particular time and space. Interviews, more precisely biographical interviews, are the tool I have been using for decades. The relationship between the interviewer and interviewee is, therefore, an essential question for me. I interview people to find out what happened to them, how they felt about it, how they recall it and what wider public memory they draw upon. Focused on the biographical narratives, as well as in-depth and repeated interviews, I have constantly faced ethical and moral questions in accordance with my role as a listener, and as a partner in the interview, but also as a scholar with the goal of using the interview in my scientific work. In my text, I would like to develop Hourig Attarian’s inspiring ideas on self-reflexivity, which brings to light the grey zones that we encounter in our work. This is often a difficult and fragile process. It is central to the connections that I create with the interviewees in my projects. These people always affect the course of my work, but also me personally. This balancing act is an exercise. I try to understand my own limits, I try to push my own boundaries, and assess how each of these circumstances impacts my research.

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