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BBC - Religions - Candomble: History

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15/09/2009 · History of Candomblé

Used to accurately record oral narratives, the inexpensive portable tape recorder helped democratize the gathering of history. Interestingly, while technology in the form of the tape recorder is responsible in part for the spread of oral history techniques, technology is also to blame in part for the need for oral history. Rather than write letters, for instance, people travel to see each other or they make telephone calls that dissolve into air. Now electronic mail via computers may make written records even more scarce.

Candomblé is an African-Brazilian religion

Questions of accuracy are not unique to oral history. Problems of accuracy hound us no matter what sources of historical data we use. If we understand the characteristics of our sources, however, we have a better chance of controlling the process to minimize inaccuracies. As a methodological balance to oral history, one can enlist other sources of data such as related artifacts, written documentation, and other interviews. A single interview by itself can pose frustrating questions, while an interview in a context of other data can clarify details and create a sense of the whole.

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Well, many of the same problems arise in using written records. Written sources can carry personal or social biases. Written sources occur within a social context. As an example, newspaper accounts contemporary with events often suffer from historical inaccuracy because of the ideological slants of reporters and editorial staff, because of the availability of sources, because of advertisers' interests, and because of the need to sell interesting stories that the public wants to buy. Yet these same newspaper accounts can be used as historical evidence of people's attitudes and interpretations. Even historical analysis published by professional historians intent on upholding the best standards in their field still falls short of that elusive goal, a complete and totally objective account of events.

Release forms can become rather full of legal-sounding language, but most oral historians manage to find a form with which they are comfortable. Release forms make it clear to the interviewee, without question, how the interviews will be used, minimizing the chances for misunderstanding. In addition to offering some protection, release forms also remind the oral historian that the interviewee grants us the privilege of using something that does not belong to us. There are many versions of releases possible. For instance, you could check Ives,, Neuenschwander, or Sitton et al.,, for some tried and true examples. A release usually includes the interviewee's name and signature, the interviewer's name, the date, a statement of permission to use the interview, the name of the person or institution receiving the permission, and the purposes to which the interview will be put. It is recommended that school projects clear release forms with the school's legal counsel.

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At this point, some people feel overwhelmed. Be assured! As long as you are aware of the pitfalls, you will be fine. Proceed step-by-step, discover the problems, and work through to the solutions. At the end of an oral history project you will understand the oral historian's challenges from the inside-out, and you will forever after look at historical documents of any kind with a wider eye. When in doubt, keep it simple. Part of the process is enjoyment and part of the adventure is learning from mistakes.

The life history form can contain very little or a great deal, depending on the project's purposes. Personal data is very useful and particularly recommended if the interview is a family history project or if interviews are to be archived for future use. The form needs to contain information that helps scholars understand, use, and interpret the interview. Aside from interviewee's name, address, telephone number, birthdate, and birthplace, the form might ask for the names, birth dates, and dates of death for parents, siblings, spouses, and children. It could ask for places lived in as well as for education and work histories. It could ask for listings of special skills and for memberships in organizations.

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Your stories and the stories of the people around you are unique, valuable treasures for your family and your community. You and your family members can preserve unwritten family history using oral history techniques. Likewise you and your community can discover and preserve unwritten history large and small. Oral history is so flexible that people of all ages can adapt the techniques of asking and listening to create and learn about history and historical narratives.

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