Oral history
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About Us

 
National oral history (henceforth - NOH) research direction is in progress since 1992 and since then one of the biggest collections of life stories has been formed in Europe, the methodology of oral history research strengthened, a number of research directions developed, extensive international contacts established. About 3500 life stories form a unique database of people’s experience and memory about the XX century events connected with the Latvian history and nation. The task of the NOH is to document, generalize, analyze and make available to a wider public the life stories as evidence of social experience. The life stories uncover different tendencies in the complicated XX century, show the ways of inheriting and transforming values in society, present an insight into the dynamics of the identity formation processes. Research problems concern the collective forms of correlation that appear in people’s behavior, attitudes and relationships; the retained practices and the new values and norms. In the foreground of the analysis are the problems of retainability and changeability of identity in the different periods of transformation of culture and mode of life, as well as the questions of the social use of memory. The research direction is in step with the general trend in the humanities and social sciences initiated at the beginning of the 90s with the turn towards the biographical and narrative approach, the ever growing use of biographical approach in the research of socially significant problems – it is acknowledged that one cannot understand a society without understanding separate individuals comprising it.
 
The core group of researchers includes researchers with already 20 years of experience in their respective fields of science as well as younger researchers who are currently studying in a Doctor's programme or have only recently received their PhD degrees. The main group of researchers is interdisciplinary (sociologists, historians, philologists, folklorists, and philosophers) and has undertaken studies at both the national and international levels. Special attention should be paid to the group's cooperation with universities abroad (Indiana University Bloomington [US], Stockholm University and Centre for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University College [Sweden], University of Helsinki, University of Turku [Finland], University of Tartu [Estonia], and others) in planning international research projects, organizing conferences and seminars, and also planning and participating in mutual fieldwork. As the result of the 2009-2012 Baltic Nordic network project “Education through Oral History Fieldwork” the group of researchers has prepared a methodology for training and organized training seminars for life story interviewers.
 
The research staff
 
          PhD Dagmāra Beitnere-Le Galla CV
 
          PhD Ieva Garda-Rozenberga CV
 
          PhD (cand) Maruta Pranka CV
 
          PhD (cand) Maija Krūmiņa CV
 
          PhD (cand) Edmunds Šūpulis CV
 
          MA Māra Zirnīte CV
 
          MA Dace Bormane CV
 
Since September 2012 research staff is enriched by Vieda Shelley (Skultans), PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Bristol. Her monograph devoted to Latvian life story studies, “The Testimony of Lives: Narrative and Memory in Post Soviet Latvia” (1998), has long been the only serious publication in the field in the English language. Skultan's newest monograph, “Empathy and Healing: Essays in Medical and Narrative Anthropology” (2011), has also received positive reviews in international academic circles. Skultans has worked with the present group of oral history researchers in Latvia since the 1990s through her participation in the organization of international conferences, the leading of workshops, the editing of collections of research papers, and also her participation in fieldwork. These studies have, firstly, helped to create an understanding of life stories as an untapped resource for studies of history and society in Latvia. Secondly, the results of the studies have been used in scientific publications and books as well as in cooperation with Latvian students, teaching faculty, and researchers.
 
          PhD Vieda Shelley (Skultans) CV
 

Academic Activities

Academic activities in the period starting with 2006 are characterized by a rapid growth in the number of publications, active participation in international conferences, and active supplementation of life stories and modernization of the database. Thanks to the state funding of the research program Letonica it was possible to develop new research directions and establish the LU FSI as a significant oral history centre in the Northern state area. The NOH researchers have not only actively participated in the most important international gatherings in the field (European Sociological Association Biographical Research Centre congresses, World Oral History Association congresses, Northern State Oral History Research symposia), they have also arranged them.

 

Social Activities 

Oral history researchers at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology are active in promoting the scientific knowledge through the means of NGO and social media. Feel free to visit related pages of  www.dzivesstasts.lv and www.facebook.com (Lifestory – atvian Oral History Researchers Association).

 
Added: 15.02.2013     Last changes: 05.04.2015