Behind the Transcript, Beyond the Recorder: Notes from the Diary of a Research Assistant

Shivangi Jaiswal

Jawaharlal Nehru University

Journal Issue:


The “shared project” of oral history underlines what makes it “different.” The content of oral sources, Alessandro Portelli argues, depends largely on what the interviewer puts into it in terms of questions, dialogue, and personal relationship. Charles T. Morrissey underlines that the two key questions in assessing an oral history transcript are, not how much material does it provide for history, but rather, how well did the interviewer do with the circumstances affecting him, and the material he had to work with. An oral history interview transcript or an audio recording thus needs to be looked at as not merely a source in itself but also what made this source possible at a particular time and space. This calls for exploring and studying traces which lie behind the transcript and voices which remain unheard in the recorder.


oral history translation, oral history interviewer, interview circumstances

Read Full Article (PDF)