She said … she said: reciprocal peer interviewing within a transgenerational frame.
10.30 am 23 September 2013.
Dr Sara Donaghey
Unitec, New Zealand
This was a very interesting presentation by Sara Donaghey, which demonstrated a different and innovative way of doing oral history. Sara’s methodology has her as a facilitator and observer rather than an interviewer, therefore shifting ownership of the conversation to the two people she observes. These two people are both interviewer and interviewee so their contribution to the interview is of equal value as they converse about their life experiences. In this research project Sara briefed the women about her aims and how the process would work. She wanted to explore the different lives of young and older lesbians as they share contrasting and insightful perspectives. The women shared their experiences, giving them the capacity to be self-reflexive. The project was transgenerational. The youngest interviewee was 19, the oldest in late 70s. The interviews were filmed and recorded. The interviews explored many topics including memories of childhood and adolescence, family, marriage, parenthood, relationships, identity, spirituality, work, social and leisure activities, overcoming challenges, and ageing. Later there was a post interview evaluation where the interviewees were asked how they viewed the initial interview process. There was strong positive feedback.
Post interview evaluation
Outcomes – the interview benefits narrator and interviewee equally. It enhances the quality of the conversation. Sara is talking to generations of lesbians from whom she can learn and they can also learn from each other. The women benefited from the process, the organic nature of the dialogue. There are benefits in “going with the flow”. People were initially apprehensive. There is a strong element of trust and faith in the process. Sara is transferring the process to the interviewees, so she is in the role of facilitator. There is more rapport and women felt privileged to take part in the process. There was a willingness for the women to share in the research.
Challenges – the selection of the participants. Sara initially relied on her advisory team, and word of mouth. As a listener and narrator, she explored personal topics as a virtual stranger. It is vital to create a safe space. The situation creates an opportunity for digressions. Sara withdrew and became a supportive “outsider”. There was difficulty with the logistics of arranging to have three people meet at one time and one place.
The future – there are many ways to explore the data for this project, which is for research purposes and will not be made public. Sara will continue to use audio-visual equipment. This interviewing technique moves beyond the conventional oral history method. In this case a particular group of women – lesbians, is being used. However, the technique has potential to be used with other subjects. Interviews lasted about 2 – 2 ½ hours and were filmed with Sara behind the camera. How were the pairs matched? How were they chosen? Sara did not match them, trusted the process, trusted the women who put themselves forward. It was a natural process of selection. It gave each interview subject the opportunity to talk to a woman from another generation.