Course Oral History and Life Stories (EN)


25 november van 13.00-17.00

| REC JK 1.23 | Valckeniersstraat 65-67, 1018 XE Amsterdam
2 december van 13.00-17.00

| REC M 0.02 | Plantage Muidergracht 12, 1018 TV Amsterdam
9 december van 13.00-17.00

| REC M 0.02 | Plantage Muidergracht 12, 1018 TV Amsterdam
16 december van 13.00-17.00

| REC JK 3.85 | Valckeniersstraat 65-67, 1018 XE Amsterdam



This Course is optional for PhD candidates and advanced RMa students



2 ECTS, with paper 5-6 ECTS



Before October 15

Students and PhD candidates willing to participate have to write a motivation letter before 1 November.
Fee (non members): 250 euro



Oral History and Life Stories

Historians and others who interview about the past often talk about memory and how they are informed by memory, while they know memory is a difficult and problematic source for historical knowledge. During this course we shall concentrate on the various uses of memory in historical research and look at the kind of knowledge we get when we interview. We will investigate various efforts to create a more systematic and theoretically grounded approach than ‘just talking about days long gone’ or ‘having a chat about the past’. How can we create a research pattern that overcomes the incidental and replace it by an integration of the changing character of spoken narratives about the past? When can we trust a story, why? And if we cannot, why can it still be important to listen. In addition, how do we listen?


General starting-point for discussion is the study of life stories in oral history as a tradition in the humanities and in the social sciences. During the course, additional attention will be given to alternative modes of in-depth interviews. Issues to be investigated in particular concern the questions of intersubjectivity; (self) reflection; identification with the Other and her/his past; and the interviewer’s role in the process of meaning/knowledge production. What are our responsibilities towards people we interview and do we have particular responsibilities in our research communities? What does it mean to be close to an interviewee, what happens if there is distance or when we do not like what we hear? Do we have to agree with our interviewees?


During the course, several theoretical approaches are discussed. Apart from lectures by Selma Leydesdorff on theoretical approaches and past work, guest lecturers are invited as well to explain how they overcome difficulties during their research. Since the use of websites for the dissemination of narrated accounts and the making of interviews with the help of a camera has become more and more important, we discuss digitization. Also the various stages of larger projects will be followed. We will follow up some ethical and practical issues.