Anna Sheftel is an assistant professor of conflict studies at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. As an oral historian of genocide and atrocity, she has worked with survivors of the Bosnian War and the Holocaust. She is the coeditor of Oral History Off the Record: Toward an Ethnography of Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). E-mail: email@example.com
Stacey Zembrzycki is an affiliate assistant professor in the Department of History at Concordia University and a teacher at Dawson College in Montreal, Canada. An award-winning oral and public historian of ethnic, immigrant, and refugee experience, she is the author of According to Baba: A Collaborative Oral History of Sudbury’s Ukrainian Community (UBC Press, 2014) and its accompanying website ( www.sudburyukrainians.ca ), and is coeditor of Oral History Off the Record: Toward an Ethnography of Practice . E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article offers a survey of the past fifty years’ literature on oral history and ethics, arguing that oral historians’ approaches to ethics have emerged from two major fears: the fear of failing as researchers and the fear of failing our narrators and doing harm. These professional and personal fears have evolved through three distinct but overlapping phases: postwar positivism, the subjective turn, and contemporary interdisciplinarity. Confronting them makes it possible to understand the complex questions behind oral historians’ preoccupations. This sheds light on how oral history has evolved and expanded as a field, and what we hope it can and will achieve.