Oral History and Indigenous Peoples: Rethinking Oral History, Methods, Politics and Theories

September 26, 2019

Oral history was a native and indigenous practice well before, and after, the arrival of colonisers. With the resurgence of oral history in academic practice and as a popular public history approach, indigenous oral history has been displaced as folklore, superstition and often puerile and unreliable oral traditions. This discussion presents an indigenous perspective of oral history. It gives voice to the way native peoples describe oral history now, and in the process challenges the limited mainstream definitions of the field that have delineated it predominantly as on-on-one life history interviews, recorded interviews for those of our time, and a field driven by a traditional democratic politics of the West. What methodologies and politics are normative to indigenous communities? And how can a native redefining of the field enable new and innovative ways of thinking about memory, narrative, and the form and ethics of oral history practice in the twenty first century?

Dr Nēpia Mahuika is a Ngāti Porou and Fulbright scholar, and is the current convenor of History at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. He is Chair of the Māori Historians Collective of Aotearoa and President of the New Zealand Oral History Association. His recent book, Rethinking Oral History and Tradition (OUP, 2019) presents an indigenous challenge to the field of oral history. Dr Mahuika teaches courses in oral history, Historical theory and methodology, and Māori and New Zealand histories. He has decades of oral history research experience, and is a member of the indigenous global oral history network. His more recent work also draws on oral history interviews and are focused on A History of Makutu (curses and black magic) in Aotearoa New Zealand and A History of Indigenous Martial Arts in the Pacific.

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