Mining Men: Reflections on Masculinity and Oral History during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Emily Peirson-Webber
2021 History Workshop Journal  
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our ability to undertake oral history research as it is traditionally understood, where interviewer and interviewee are in dialogue with each other in a shared physical setting. Reflecting on experiences conducting twenty-seven remote interviews with former British mineworkers, this article explores how meaningful interviews can be produced with certain groups via video conferencing software and over the telephone. While some of the observational benefits of
more » ... n-person interviewing were lost, there were gains in terms of the comfort of interviewees and interviewer alike. The reciprocity of video conferencing software went some way to disrupt the power dynamics of oral history interviews. Likewise, interviewees seemed more self-reflexive and willing to discuss sensitive topics when talking via online video-conferencing platforms than over the telephone, or inperson. My experience demands that we rethink orthodox methodological advice concerning best practice. The remote oral history interview can allow access to groups who are hard to reach, and offers a means through which vulnerable interviewees can regain some sense of identity and agency in a time of social dislocation.
doi:10.1093/hwj/dbab012 fatcat:c6aihqcpjbhihbce264fquqldi