Use oral traditions for better historical writing: Dr Sangeetha

Hence the symposium to understand the importance of memory and folklore, †she explained.

COONOOR: A national symposium sponsored by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) at the famous Providence College for Women (PCW) here has stressed on the vital role collective memories of people, their folklore and utterances as “links” to understanding the past, understand their relevance to the present and enable further research in future. The symposium, titled, “Oral traditions and folklore - As Alternate Source in Historical Writing” was unique to Coonoor in view of the tribal population in the Nilgiris.

Dr S.M. Sangeetha, head of History department at PCW, said that at some point of time, “history becomes tradition and it is obviously noted in the transformation happening in the case of ordinary utterances about the past.”

“This is the critical juncture where memories of the past are neglected, marginalised and converted as sites of tradition, unreliable for professional historians.”

“When does it happen and why it happens becomes a serious question for contemporary historians. People’s utterances about the past are not mere reconstructions from autobiographical memory; they contain deeper affiliations with the social memory of the times. When they reveal these memories as part of oral testimony, it becomes oral history. When these utterances are neglected by historians, these histories become traditions as the person who uttered them passes away,” she noted.

“Memories are vital sources of information about events, movements and processes of the past. Most often, only ‘dominant memory’ finds a place in the columns of history and ‘marginalised memories’ are often neglected as areas of the wild and the rude,” rued Dr Sangeetha.

“We might use oral testimony alongside other sources to recover neglected or silenced accounts of past experience, and as a way of challenging dominant histories which underpin repressive attitudes and policy.

People in urban and rural spaces like the non-industrial urban poor, the agricultural worker, the poor peasant and the tribal have a history to convey, but their histories are marginalized as they themselves are marginalized in society.
Hence the symposium to understand the importance of memory and folklore, ” she explained.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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