In this essay, I reflect on the use of oral history and participant observation as tools for researchers of the contemporary past. I want to argue that these approaches must, as Nietzsche has stated, “serve life” by pushing traditional guidelines and by considering the rich cultural fabrics not recorded in oral or written form. Feminist scholars must experiment with methodologies that allow them to consider identities by continually reflecting on their own. But, they should neither become trapped by the narrow definitions of identity politics nor indulge solely in personal exploration.
I first discuss briefly the relationship of oral history to feminism and postmodernism and examine the role of meta-narratives in framing research questions. I then draw on my study of the women’s movement in Italy and consider how, in the process of conducting research, I was influenced by written narratives, oral accounts, participant observations, and casual exchanges.
Oral History, Identity, and the Italian Women’s Movement in the Future of the Contemporary Past.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 7(2), 191-201.
Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol7/iss2/13