CfP:‘Let’s talk about history!’ – Public history through face-to-face communication
Workshop in Prague, 22–24 May 2019
Organisers: German Historical Institute Warsaw / Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam
People talk about history – this has been the case always and everywhere. The past is the subject of oral communication in private, at school, but also in public. The motivation of the speakers ranges from the desire to recall things and enlighten others to the marketing of a service or the fulfilment of a certain range of professional tasks: there are the guides for tourists, in museums or at memorial sites, who relate local history to domestic and foreign visitors. In addition, there are witnesses of the past, who pass on their experiences during tours or at commemorative services. Furthermore, there are interpreters of living history, antiquity dealers, collectors or other amateur historians, who turn history into a subject of public discussion. Although such oral historical narratives are omnipresent, public history has so far paid astoundingly little attention to the subject. ‘Oral history’ is understood first and foremost as a method of historical research, and not as the popularisation of historical narrative in public. But non-academic history, too – and especially – is frequently also history told orally.
In the workshop, we therefore want to address various forms of oral, face-to-face communication of history. With this, we mean different non-family and non-school contexts that are explicitly initiated as opportunities to address history. Such ‘oral situations’ are temporally and locally distinct; they are, as a rule, not recorded and cannot, therefore, be repeated. The narratives are the product of situational and interactive negotiation in different spaces. They emerge in direct contact between the speakers and their audience. They are dependent on the interest of the audience, the competence, enthusiasm and mood of the narrators and, not least, on external influences, such as weather, traffic or passers-by.