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Oral Histories in the Making of Our Memories and Heritage

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The paper argues that our understanding and use of oral history interviewing for reconstruction of our past or life narratives will need to be reviewed as our concept of how our memories work changes. Our current practice of oral history interviewing assumes that the oral history interviewees are providing us an accurate recollection of their memories and which the interviewer attempts to verify with the interviewees through cross-checking with other historical evidence. This practice of oral history interviewing assumes that our mind is a blank slate upon which our memories are inscribed to be recalled. However, an alternative understanding of our memory assumes that our memories are not static, but filter from our past to our present, mix with other more recent memories, and are reconfigured according to current preoccupations. Thus what our oral history interviewees reveal are their memories configured to their present preoccupations and what they decide to reveal is often a moral choice of what they perceive to be the relevance of that memory to the interview.

Affiliations: 1: Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore


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