Repositioning the oral history interview : reciprocal peer interviewing within a transgenerational frame

Author: Donaghey, Sara

Date: 2014-12-22

Publisher: Unitec ePress

Type: Unclassified

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This essay signals a departure from conventional models for the oral history interview to allow the participant voices to occupy a position of greater prominence in a collaborative process of co-creation. Reciprocal peer interviewing is an adaptation of focus group interviews; a technique that positions the narrators at the forefront of the interview process whilst the researcher takes on a secondary role as facilitator and observer. My research applies the reciprocal peer interview technique to explorations of lesbian identity and life experiences through oral testimony within a transgenerational frame. The interview lies at the heart of oral history; an intensely personal activity that provides recorded information in oral form (Fyfe and Manson, 2006). Indeed, analogies to dramatic representations are common in the literature, describing the interview as a performance during which two people interact across multiple channels of reception and transmission. Traditional interview modes place the researcher/interviewer at the forefront, engaging in an interrogatory dialogue with the narrator/interviewee. Despite an uneasy relationship with historians who at times, have viewed oral history as populist, partial and selective, one may argue that the recording of a life story is no different to an interview used as a mainstream data collection instrument in qualitative research commonly applied in the social sciences. Ultimately, one must adhere to the raison d’etre for historical study as stated by Thompson (1978, p 21) that “all history depends ultimately upon its social purpose.”

Subjects: oral history, interviewing, co-creation, life stories, queer, lesbian, gay, 160807 Sociological Methodology and Research Methods, 210311 New Zealand History, 200205 Culture, Gender, Sexuality

Copyright: Communication Issues in Aotearoa New Zealand: A Collection of Research Essays, Edited by Giles Dodson & Evangelia Papoutsaki, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.