Panel “Loyalty and Competing Narratives in Oral History
The panel is tentatively titled “Loyalty and Competing Narratives in Oral History,” and deals with the challenge of if and how, and to what extent, the historian should or must privilege their own interpretation over the meanings that interlocutors assign to their own stories.
This panel addresses one of the most prominent challenges facing historians working with testimony: how to balance the scholar’s interpretation against, or alongside, the meanings and significance with which subjects invest their own life stories. Confronting the tension between loyalties (what the historian feels towards the subject and what she feels towards her own interpretation) is more than a simple theoretical exercise; it can profoundly shape the finished product and has ramifications for the morality and ethics of historical practice when that practice includes living interlocutors. Moreover, does (or should) the loyalty (or conflicted loyalties) that oral historians feel towards their subjects differ from the fidelity (or skepticism) which historians of all stripes should approach their source material? This panel explores these questions and seeks to contribute new theoretical and methodological insight to the evolving field of oral history.