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Narrating our Pasts

Narrating our Pasts
The Social Construction of Oral History


Part of Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture

  • Date Published: April 1995
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521484633
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About the Authors
  • This study looks at how oral histories are constructed and how they should be interpreted, and argues for a deeper understanding of their oral and social characteristics. Oral accounts of past events are also guides to the future, as well as being social activities in which tellers claim authority to speak to particular audiences. Like written history and literature, orality has its shaping genres and aesthetic conventions and, likewise, has to be interpreted through them. The argument is illustrated through a wide range of examples of memory, narration and oral tradition, including many from Europe and the Americas, and with a particular focus on oral histories from the Jlao Kru of Liberia, with whom Elizabeth Tonkin has carried out extensive research. Tonkin also draws on and integrates the insights of a range of other disciplines, such as literary criticism, linguistics, history, psychology, and communication and cultural studies.

    • Tonkin offers a new alternative theory and methodology of oral history
    • Extremely well received in hardback, now available in paperback
    • 'A timely book. It brings together matters of current interest in recent works on memory, ethnohistory and orality.' Sociological Review 1994
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… this is a very thoughtful and delightful work, carefully argued, the fruit of wide reading and sustained thought … It is also a delight to read.' Anthropos

    '[An] excellent, stimulating and innovative book … [Tonkin] presents a new way of looking at oral history and also a theoretical discussion on the very nature of oral tradition.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

    'This is a timely book. It brings together matters of current interest in recent works on memory, ethnohistory and orality, and it attempts to synthesise a fruitful approach to a complex body of material … [It] is suggestive, thought-provoking and never dull. It points throughout towards novel avenues of thought and interesting angles on a fascinating collection of oral and literary sources. It is certainly a book which serious students of oral genres should have on their book-shelves.' The Times Literary Supplement

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    18th Apr 2019 by Yutongyan

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 1995
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521484633
    • length: 192 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 153 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.32kg
    • contains: 9 b/w illus. 3 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Note on orthography
    1. Jlao: an introductory case study
    2. The teller of the tale: authors and their authorisations
    3. Structuring an account: the work of genre
    4. Temporality: narrators and their times
    5. Subjective or objective
    6. Memory makes us, we make memory
    7. Truthfulness, history and identity

  • Author

    Elizabeth Tonkin, Queen's University Belfast

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