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Undergraduate Module Descriptor

ARA3047: Oral History: Principles and Practice

This module descriptor refers to the 2020/1 academic year.


NQF Level 6
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (12 weeks)

Academic staff

Professor Christine Robins (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


Have you ever had an in-depth conversation about memories and experiences with someone whose life experience is very different from your own? Did this enrich your own understanding? Did you feel differently about them afterwards? Did they feel differently about you? If your answer is ‘yes’ to this, then you will appreciate the potential of oral history, which is a term used for the process of recording interviews with people to elicit narratives of the past, and also for the product of this process (recordings, transcripts, film, books etc). This methodology has been used not only in history, but also in other disciplines including anthropology and psychology – for hearing the voice of non-elites, helping to heal traumatised communities and discovering multiple experiences of the past.

In this project-based module you will learn the methodologies and theoretical perspectives underlying oral history and you will begin to practise it yourself. Interacting with experienced researchers, you will learn about past and current projects, especially those focusing on the Middle East, but the main focus will be practical, as your final assignment will consist of an interview of your own. The respondent and focus must be agreed with the teacher; it is likely to be someone living in Devon but need not be somebody from the Middle East. We anticipate that your interviews will contribute to an oral history project focusing on diversity, to be accessible online and on an English-language website in the longer term; the ELE page will give further information on this and on the risk assessments and other work you need to complete before you can go ahead and do your interview.

The module is aimed especially at those who wish to use this approach for dissertations or wish to develop their interviewing and media skills. Much of the course will be delivered through workshops. Emphasis will be placed on group work, mutual support and a deep understanding of the ethical issues involved. No prior knowledge of Middle Eastern languages is required.

This module will run in Term 1 to enable you to prepare for dissertations later in the year.

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