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Abstract

This article interrogates interpretative authority in feminist oral history through a critical Indigenous lens. I argue that critical Indigenous theory provides a useful and needed understanding of participants’ agency and the active role they have in shaping the research. Feminist oral history as a methodology has a long and well-established lineage of exploring difficult questions of power in the relationship between the researcher and the participants. While many feminist oral historians have actively interrogated issues surrounding power within their own research, there are relatively few works that press beyond looking at the one-sided hierarchical relationship between the oral historian and the research participants. The first part provides a theoretical and historical overview of feminist oral history in North America and Europe. From there I bring forward Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s work on decolonizing research and the need to recognize the authority of the participants. I will review the challenges I encountered when conducting oral histories with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) refugees, and discuss how critical Indigenous theory provided a useful tool in understanding, acknowledging, and representing participants’ agency. In this way, I will intersect critical Indigenous theory with the methodology of feminist oral history and move previous discussions on power and interpretative authority away from focusing just on the role of the researcher and toward embracing the role of the participant as well.

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