International Conferene: Bridging generations: interdisciplinarity and life stories in the 21st century. Oral History and life history approaches in the social sciences, University of Thessaly, 25-27/5/2012




Bridging generations: interdisciplinarity and
life stories in the 21st century

Oral history and life history approaches in the
social sciences


Volos, 25-27 May 2012



Call for papers

The aim of
this conference is to contribute to the creation of an interdisciplinary
community of researchers working in the fields of oral history, memory studies
and the biographical approach in the social sciences. Researchers from
different disciplines use life stories to explore human lived experiences, the
multiple interconnections between the individual and society, the ways in which
subjectivities are constructed and determined by social and historical factors.
Oral history and the biographical approach provide excellent tools to explore
how social agents face abrupt social change and ruptures in their daily lives,
related to political or economic crisis, (forced) migration, the
deregularization of labour relations and the deconstruction of the welfare state.

In this
conference we want to take stock of the developments in these fields in Greece
over the last ten years and to link them to the theoretical and methodological
debates going on elsewhere in the world. A central question which concerns us
is whether the institutional recognition of oral history, as well as the
“memory boom” of the 1990s and the use of digital media in mass communications
have moved oral history away from its initial objectives: to contribute to a
critical approach to social phenomena and to connect historical and social
research with the communities we study (for a relevant debate, see In
the period of crisis we are living through, this question acquires new
meanings. With the participation of leading scholars
in the field, the conference aims to create a space where old and new
generations can meet and exchange their knowledge. The title of the conference
“bridging generations” thus concerns both the narrative interview itself, where
knowledge and meanings are transmitted from one generation to the next, and the
encounter between two generations of researchers involved in biographical
research. A second goal of the conference is to create a Greek Oral History
Association as a new national section of the International Oral History

With this
perspective we invite you to take part in the conference and present a paper,
focusing in particular on the peculiarities of oral evidence as a source of knowledge
which can give new insights into our societies through the encounter of the
subjectivity of our narrators with the collective processes of history and

We propose
the following themes for the conference:

  • Oral history and the community

Today our
societies are characterized by extreme individualism, but at the same time new
collectivities emerge which reclaim a voice in the public space. In this
context, the notion of community acquires new meanings, very different from the
old tradition of “community studies”. We are particularly interested in the
following questions: a) how can individual narratives contribute to the
formation of a sense of community? b) In which ways can oral history contribute
to the empowerment of (local and globalised) communities to help them face the
challenges of the present? c) What is the contribution of oral narratives in
improving mutual understanding within divided or multi-cultural communities? d)
How can we “give back” our research findings to the communities we study? e) How
can local communities create their own narratives on the past, the present and
the future?

  • Oral history and digital media

diffusion of digital technologies has brought radical changes not only in
biographical research, but also in the media, in museums and in the “social
media”. We would like to see, first of all, some good examples of how digital
media can be used in providing access to oral narratives, for example in museum
exhibitions and through the Internet. At the same time, however, we want to investigate
this relation through questions such as: a) What are the new (national or
global) power relations or forms of resistance that can be created through
digital technologies? b) In which ways can digital technology contribute to an
anthropology of the senses? What do we gain and what do we lose by adding image
to sound? c) To what extent do media such as YouTube contribute to a new form
of uncritical master narratives?

  • Oral history in periods of crisis 

This theme
concerns on the one hand periods of crisis of the past (war, civil wars,
natural disasters) and on the other the present economic crisis which affects
all societies in the world, but especially Europe. Greece finds itself in the
eye of the storm and has already changed radically after only two years of
austerity measures. These experiences are emblematic for the social and
political consequences that may be produced in other countries as well.
Therefore, it is a privileged field for research on the new social dynamics
created by the crisis. Do we have already some examples of such research with
the use of oral narratives and how can we record these experiences?

  • Oral history in education

experience has shown that oral history programmes developed in schools can help
students to develop critical historical thinking, knowledge and competences,
but can also help them to reconnect with the learning process when they have
withdrawn. Which are the possibilities to develop such programmes in Greece and
what examples do we have already? In the second place, now that education is
rapidly changing all over Europe, it seems particular important to study older
educational practices and the way they are changing today, by using oral

  • Oral history and memory studies

Since the
1980s oral history and biographical research have contributed significantly to
the improvement of our understanding of the processes through which individual
and social memory are constructed. Yet, during the last two decades academic
interest seems to have shifted to the study of public memory (sites of memory,
politics of memory). This field of “memory studies” has often ignored the
theoretical insights of oral history and rarely uses oral narratives as a
source of knowledge. How can we bridge this gap? Some of the topics which might
concern us here are the relation between individual and collective memory, the
role of subjectively lived experience in relation with broader social and
political processes and the techniques of analysis of oral narratives.

If you are
interested in participating in this conference, you are kindly invited to send
a title and abstract, indicating the topic that interests you, until February,
28, 2012, to the following email address: rvboe [at] yahoo [dot] gr

organizing committee

Riki Van
Boeschoten – University of Thessaly

Vervenioti – Greek Open University

Thanopoulou – EKKE (National Centre for Social Research)

Irene Nakou
– University of Thesaly

Bada – University of Ioannina

Hantzaroula – University of the Aegean

Tsiolis – University of Crete