Narrating Enlightenment: Oral History and Civil Society after Hitler

Date

1998

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Association for Interdisciplinary Studies

Abstract

Does oral history promote liberal values? civic virtues? This paper will explore the contemporary role of narrative interviews, a core method within the everyday life history movement in Central Europe (Alltagsgeschichte). Reflecting back on a series of interviews I conducted on the Nazi past in 1992-94 in Hildesheim, this paper will show that I and my interview partners responded to the authenticity of this encounter by judging each other categorically. This response denied the ethical ambiguity of the Third Reich and raises the thorny question of whether history should be based on facticity or authenticity. Both oral history and alltagsgeschichte seek to balance these modes of remembrance and, as this paper will show, it is this tension that facilitates the growth of civic virtues. Moreover, this tension is most effective in promoting civic virtues when oral history is conceived and conducted not simply as a means to an empirical end, but as a long-term, social process of remembrance.

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Citation

Bergerson, Andrew Stuart. "Narrating Enlightenment: Oral History and Civil Society after Hitler." Issues in Integrative Studies 16 (1998): 31-55.