Ethics in the cross-cultural oral history interview
Asians -- England -- Leicester -- Social conditions Leicester (England) -- Emigration and immigration Ασιάτες -- Αγγλία -- Λέιτσεστερ -- Κοινωνικές συνθήκες Λέιτσεστερ (Αγγλία) -- Αποδημία και εποίκηση
My research has focused on the effect of waves of Asian migration on both white and Asian communities in Leicester, post 1955. Research is based on oral history archives and life history interviews with whites and Asians from diverse backgrounds. This paper will focus on the ethical issues that were raised during the interview process and the interpretation of the oral testimonies. The main ethical question concerned the power of the researcher in relation to the ‘researched.’ In what ways did my social location and identity, including my gender and ethnicity, shape the interview process? Were the respondents more willing to discuss certain issues? For instance, were the Asian participants unwilling to discuss racism, for fear of offending the white interviewer? Was it possible to overcome these problems and establish common ground and affinity with the respondents? Difficulties also arose in relation to the analysis of the interviews. Conceptualisations of patriarchal relations could be construed as ethnocentric or racist. There was therefore a need to challenge assumptions, including Western feminist notions of liberation and stereotypes of monolithic ‘third world women’ who are inherently ‘traditional.’ The paper therefore hopes to highlight the complex nature of the oral history process and show how the position of the researcher as an ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ generates different types of knowledge, which cannot be viewed as more superior than the other.
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: Constructing urban memories: the role of oral testimony