Oral History and Ethnology – Back to the Roots?



Year of publication 2016
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description In this paper I am dealing mainly with methodological background of my PhD research. My topics are socio-cultural changes of Moravian countryside during second part of 20th century with focus on the form of socialization and social life. One of the pillars of my work are oral history interviews with people who actively participated on - often initiated and organized - social and cultural life on the countryside. Oral history, term and method developed and imported from USA and western Europe, means for me mainly an effort to record full life stories with narrators. Speaking about all periods of their life from childhood to adolescence, adulthood and family establishing, collecting memories about work, social life and free time, reflecting different spheres of their life, also private and public. All these aspects, collected as far as possible from one narrator, can together provide many interpretations for historians, ethnologists, sociologists etc. Through life stories we can better understand motivations and inspirations of narrators behind their role in our research topics. As graduated ethnologist and oral historian – with degree from Faculty of humanities, Charles University, where this phenomenon is established as master field of study led by pioneers of this research method in Czech Republic, I had the chance to catch different interpretations of the term “oral history” from reputable experts trained in ethnology, folklore studies and history and recognized, that their understanding of OH is often different. Reason of this difference can can be based in the way, in which they met this term. But roots can be entrenched deeper in the past. Research interest in everyday life, social and cultural history was established by different ways with different theoretical roots in pre-November Czechoslovakia and western counties. Western historians during extension of OH methods dealt with similar topics as ethnologists in Czechoslovakia. And Czech historians after 1989 imported oral history method and started to work on similar topics, which ethnologists had studied before. As well as ethnologists, also historians collected many sources, for example interviews, which contain much more topics potentially valuable for other researchers established in different fields. In my paper I will also show some practical example of using sources created by ethnologists and historians during my PhD research and try to explain, how can be oral history valuated as interdisciplinary challenge, if experts would understand what it means for researchers with different background.

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