ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Past, Present, and Oral History

Oral history is an aid to movements for social justice across the world. It is particularly significant in countries like India where literacy levels are low and where memories of the oppressed are routinely erased from public memory. This article questions the presumed superiority of the written over the oral. It presents a critique of “establishment” historiography and suggests that historians should adopt a receptive and balanced approach to different forms of history. Oral history reorients the historian’s craft in interesting ways. The oral history method is crucial for capturing histories that flourish outside the dominant narratives of modern societies.

The author thanks Nayanjot Lahiri for her comments.

As such oral tradition is not only a raw source. It is a hypothesis, similar to the historian’s own interpretation of the past. Therefore oral traditions should be treated as hypotheses, and as the first hypothesis the modem scholar must test before he or she considers others. To consider them first means not to accept them literally, uncritically.

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Updated On : 20th Jul, 2017
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