Journal Article

Gaining Access and Sharing Authority: What I Learned about Oral History from an Episode in U.S.-China Transnationalism

Norton Wheeler

in The Oral History Review

Published on behalf of Oral History Association

Volume 31, issue 2, pages 53-68
Published in print January 2004 | ISSN: 0094-0798
Published online January 2004 | e-ISSN: 1533-8592 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/ohr.2004.31.2.53
Gaining Access and Sharing Authority: What I Learned about Oral History from an Episode in U.S.-China Transnationalism

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The terms “access” and “authority” serve in this article as distilled references for two ongoing and interrelated discussions within oral history. Both discussions turn on the relationship between scholar/interviewer and subject/narrator. On the one hand, researchers more easily gain access to the extent their subjects come to know and trust them. On the other hand, breaking down sharp boundaries between interviewers and narrators inexorably opens up the question of how much authority those interviewed have over the final scholarly product—the more so to the extent a scholar self-consciously strives to share authority. Among the lessons learned from one research project involving middle and upper middle class professionals are: that one need not fear “losing objectivity” by becoming too close to a subject, since all knowledge is partial; that other research methods can provide a check on oral history interviews; and that the scholar must assert ultimate authority, even after sharing it.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Oral History

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