CfP: Oral history in Central-Eastern Europe: current research areas, challenges and specificity

Deadline for applications: 28 February 2015

In the past several years, oral history has become increasingly popular in Central and Eastern Europe, both in academia and beyond. It is impossible to overstate the importance of various local initiatives aimed at recording history and propagating knowledge about a region’s past. At the same time, oral history is becoming more institutionalised: in several countries, archives and scholarly associations are being created, and international cooperation in the field intensifies.
While the popularity of oral history is a very positive phenomenon, it does raise multiple questions and issues. In contrast to Western Europe and North America, where oral history has been present for a long time, scholars from Central and Eastern Europe are still developing ethical, methodological and legal standards for their field. These standards are necessary for the recording, storing and editing of interviews, as well as their publication.
Thus, our conference seeks to pose questions regarding the specificity of oral history in our region. Does it exist and what does it look like? We are interested in the aforementioned ethical and legal challenges, but we also want to inquire about whether oral history in Central and Eastern Europe requires a particular and unique methodology and sensibility in comparison to its Western equivalent. In the West, oral history was a response to the need of recording the fates of groups heretofore disenfranchised by traditional historiography – ethnic minorities, women, workers, etc. So far, the obvious trend for oral history in Central and Eastern Europe has been to record the accounts of groups that had previously been marginalised by the undemocratic regimes of the Soviet bloc, and whose histories had remained outside of the officially approved historiography – the victims of repressions and deportation, the political opposition, members of the postwar anti-communist underground, Holocaust survivors, etc. The preeminence of these themes has left a clear mark on the oral history of the region. Faced with a change of generations, we should ask questions about the themes and types of interviewees that will shape the future of oral history in our region.
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