Geef een of meerdere zoektermen op.
Gebruik dubbele aanhalingstekens om in de exacte woordvolgorde te zoeken.

5 questions for Dr. Susan Hogervorst

In our new column ‘5 questions for’, we engage with interesting people, our network and relations, diving into the world of oral history and everything related to it. This month, Susan Hogervorst; associate professor of cultural history at the Open University. She is also a lecturer at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


1/ Can you (briefly) introduce yourself?

‘I am an associate professor of cultural history at the Open University (OU). Recently I also started teaching some courses at the VU in Amsterdam. Previously, I combined the OU for a long time with an appointment as a lecturer and researcher at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, where I also studied and received my PhD.’


2/ What is your expertise?

‘I specialise in dealing with the past, for example in commemorations, monuments and historical museums. I have been focusing more and more on the eyewitness as a historical source. The demise of the eyewitness generation of World War II has led to countless interview projects and collections, made available and searchable by all kinds of technological means. I started following these changes and their effects and investigating them in various ways, for example by having history teachers in training work with a video interview collection and interviewing them about their findings. Or by digging out the user statistics of an online interview collection to find out which topics, speakers and excerpts are viewed most and least. In recent years, I have been focusing more and more on oral history theory and methods’.


3/ What are you currently working on?

‘Soon I will go to a congress in Germany in which I will present a study on gentrification and historical authenticity together with Vincent Baptist (EUR), based on walking interviews in the Rotterdam neighbourhood of Katendrecht. I am very much looking forward to that.


Further, I am writing a handbook on oral history. If all goes well, it will be published by Amsterdam University Press this spring 2024. I am doing that together with Marloes Hülsken from Radboud University. It will be a practical book aimed at Dutch-speaking practice, with the necessary theoretical background to make well-considered choices in every step of the interview process. And we will also go into detail on how to use existing interview collections, because there are more and more of them.

And we will also discuss the use of existing interview collections.


And I have just received funding for a new project on the social, cultural, economic and ecological knock-on effects of the past in the former wine regions of Limburg and Groningen. Two postdoc researchers will do interviews in the eastern mining region and in Groningen’s natural gas area. And we will involve potential ‘end-users’ of the interview collections at an early stage, such as the National Mining Museum and the Social History Centre Limburg. In this way, our interviews are also useful for other researchers and accessible to a wider audience.”


4/ You are attached as an editor to the Journal of History, where you regularly write about current themes or events. In one of the comments, you wrote that we should do away with the term “oral history”. Can you explain this and has your view changed?

‘Ha, yes I understand that statement looks a bit strange, especially without context. I skewed that it was curious that we don’t call historiography based on archival research written history or written history. By calling historiography based on interviews ‘oral history’ you make special what really should be part of the standard methodological arsenal of every historian (m/f/x/). After all, depending on your topic and your research question, you choose appropriate sources and an appropriate method, and that can be interviewing (or using existing interviews). So oral history is just history, or should be. Unfortunately, oral history is only taught at a few universities, and often as an elective. My statement was mainly meant to make you think. And so it seems to have succeeded!’


5/ You are a member of the Huizinga Institute’s Oral History Working Group, can you tell us a bit more about this and what is planned in the near future?

The Huizinga Institute is the national research school for PhD and research master’s students in the field of cultural history. There are working groups on a variety of topics in which PhD students and students discuss ongoing research and current developments around the subject with more advanced researchers. The oral history working group has been around for a long time, formerly coordinated by Selma Leydesdorff, who was then professor of Oral history and culture at the University of Amsterdam. After her retirement, Dienke Hondius (Free University), Barbara Henkes (University of Groningen) and I took over the coordination. Every other year, we run an oral history course for PhD students and undergraduates. And about every two months we organise a meeting, online or in Utrecht. Those meetings are open to anyone working on oral history, not just PhD students, nor just researchers connected to a university. We had a lecture by Stef Scagliola on reusing existing interview collections, and the penultimate meeting was about oral history teaching at universities. Last Friday, researcher Annelot Hoek spoke about her research on the decolonisation of Indonesia. More information about the meetings and registration can be found on our website‘.

Please visit our website‘.


Follow Susan on LinkedIn