Oral History and the Writing of Ethnic History: A Reconnaissance into Method and Theory


Gary Y. Okihiro

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Oral History, Ethnic Studies, Ethnicity, Race, Cultural Pedagogy, Classroom Instruction


While ethnic historians have utilized oral history for a number of years, in varying degrees of sophistication, few have addressed themselves to the methodological problem of oral history as a tool for recovering history or the theoretical problem of what constitutes history which oral history proposes to answer. The intent of this paper is a modest one. It synthesizes the scattered body of literature on oral history method and seeks to show that oral history is not only method, but also is theory, in the loose sense of the word, and a way of conceptualizing history. The paper, therefore, is mainly concerned with the writing of history-particularly ethnic history-and is neither a primer on how to set up an ethnic oral history program nor a critical analysis of existing ones or the extant literature in ethnic studies. It is an essay on the writing of history and oral history as method and theory and is a reminder of oral history's significance to ethnic history.

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