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Oral History Across Generations

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    Oral istory Society

    Oral History across Generations: Age, Generational Identity and Oral TestimonyAuthor(s): Sally ChandlerSource: Oral History, Vol. 33, No. 2, Memory Work (Autumn, 2005), pp. 48-56Published by: Oral History SocietyStable URL:

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    phy'.2This observationunderpins present dayoral history's ongoing assumption that'[subjectivity is as much the business of oralhistoryas are the more visible facts '.3ubjec-tivity evolves as a dynamic entity shaped bycomplex nteractionsamongdominantculturaldiscourses or scripts, local variants of thosescripts,and individualpsychologicaland socialexperienceswithin,a particular ocial context.To account for these complex dynamics,oralhistorianshavedevotedmuchenergy o record-ing in-depth depictions of subjectivity in itsmanyraced, classed and genderedvariations.4Oral historians have also attended to howmovementthroughand withinage andgenera-tional dentity nfluencesboth ourparticipationwithin culturaldiscourses and our growth asindividuals, but this aspect of identity hasreceived less focused study.5As a result, wehaveyet to undertaken-depthconsiderationofhowgenerational ndage-related imensionsofsubjectivitycan shape what and how materialbecomes available within interviews, or howthatmaterial s interpreted. n this essay,I givea brief overview of life-course developmentresearchers' haracterizations f how patternsfor communicationand interpretationchangeacross the lifespan. Then, throughanalysis oftalk and writing surrounding oral historyprojectscreatedby college students with eldersubjects, I present a contextual discussion ofhow this research might enrich our under-standingof interviewdynamicsand the inter-pretationof materialswhen we are of an age orgenerationdifferent rom our subject.LIFE-COURSEDEVELOPMENT RESEARCHLife-coursedevelopment esearchassumesthatpsychological, moral, cognitive and identitydevelopmenttakes place throughoutthe lifes-pan by movement througha series of generalpatterns.6Work o broadendefinitionsof devel-opmentor to considerdifferencesarisingfromrace,class or genderhavecomplicatedgeneralmodelsbyindicating hat,amongotherthings,neither the standardsfor maturity, he defini-tions of development,nor the measures hroughwhich we describe these features are free ofcultural bias.7 At the same time and despitepersistentevidencethat individual dentityandcontext nfluenceboththe natureandtimingofdevelopment,research tends to validate threegeneralobservations: hatsocial, cognitiveandpsychological processes change over the lifecourse; that the forms and functions of theseprocessesareoften characteristic f a particularlife stage;and thatmembership n a particulargenerational cohort influences the culturalstoriesavailable o individuals or theconstruc-tion andinterpretation f identity.

    Because ife-coursedevelopmentresearch sa burgeoningarea of study, t is not possible todo justice to the breadth and particularityoffindings,and I have limited discussion to threeareasof life-coursedevelopment esearchwhichinclude a focus on the processes,functions andeffects of human recollection. These areas arereminiscence tudies,autobiographicalmemoryresearchandpsychological tudies of agingandcognition.Reminiscence, theprocessof recall-ing personallyexperiencedepisodes fromone'spast', is central to the practiceof oral history,and is an objectof studyin all three areas.8Aspointedout byJoannaBornat,an oral historianand reminiscenceresearcher,studies of remi-niscence and oralhistoryconsidersimilar ssuesbut with a different ocus. Theseissues include'contexts orremembering, he effectof traumaon remembering, the interview relationship,ethics, the nature of memory[and] the role ofrememberingn establishing dentities'.9 tudiesof autobiographical memory have similarconcerns but with an emphasis on how muchand how well individualsrecollect, as well aswhy and what in particular they remember.10Autobiographicalmemoryresearch s stronglyconnected to workin cognitive psychology, ndits methods for collecting and reporting datareflect thequantitative, cientificorientationofthe discipline.To focus discussion still more sharply, Idiscuss only studies which bear upon threeparticularconcerns: 1) how membership n agenerational cohort structures the form andfunction of processes for recollection; 2) howage affects both the individual's onceptualiza-tions of self andother,and the individual's oca-tion within the cultural stories throughwhichthose conceptualizationsare constructed;and3) how the form and function of autobiograph-ical memories shift as we move through thelifespan.GENERATIONAL OHORTS: FORMSAND FUNCTIONS FOR REMEMBERINGIn her work on individual autobiographicalmemories and collective narratives,KatherineNelson argues that 'personal autobiographicalmemory s functionallyand structurally elatedto ... culturalmyths and social narratives'.11That is, according to Nelson, both culturalmyths and autobiographicalmemory providebasesforconstructingcoherent stories for whowe are, both as individuals and within acommunity. In her review of differences ingenerational cohorts in the United States,Nelson finds that cohorts raisedduring he firsthalf of twentieth century - children of theDepressionand the Waryears- create autobi-ographicalmemories with different forms and

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    Wayne StateUniversityslocated at thecultural entre ofDetroit,Michigan.Lookingwest onWarrenAvenue,we see theyellowbricktowers ofOld Main Hall(SallyChandler)

    functionsthan thegeneration or the latterhalf:'babyboomers', children of the fifties throughto the earlyseventies,and members of 'Gener-ation X', young adults currently in their lateteens andearlytwenties. Accordingto Nelson,while childrenfrom the first half of the centuryengaged in identity formation though partici-pation in collective narratives 'purveyedthrough school, community and church',cohorts born in the latter half of this samecenturygrew up in a culture where 'individualfamilieswere responsiblefor conveying[socialhistories and identities]'.12Nelson concludesthat because of this shift from communallytransferred o individuallyconstructed narra-tives for identity stories, autobiographicalmemories n twenty-first enturyUnited Statesserve functionspreviouslyperformedby largerculturalnarratives.As Passerinipointsout in her reviewof workby Frigga Haug, MarrietteClaireand RichardJohnson,and by Annette Kuhn, the individualexperienceswhichshape any generation's uto-biographical memories remain structuredbythese largerculturalnarratives.15 orexample,within the United States individual identitiesare constructed within national, collectivestories of 'success through hard work','freedom' and 'equality'. At the same time,these experiences are raced, classed andgendered and individual subjects resist,conflate, appropriateor transform dominant

    cultural discoursesin ways which reflect theirparticular ubjectposition(s). Nelson'sdescrip-tion of older and younger cohorts' differentrelationships to and uses of autobiographicalmemories llustrates he importanceof age andgenerationas yetanotherdimensionof identity.Consideration of this added dimension candeepen our understanding f subjects'orienta-tions within the collective stories which directand contain the self representationswhich arethe veryheart of oral history.PROJECTBACKGROUNDANDMETHODSOral histories n thisdiscussionwerecreatedbystudents enrolled in intermediate collegewriting courses taught duringthe fall of 1999at WayneStateUniversity, n urbancommuteruniversityin Detroit, Michigan.Each studentworked with an elderpartnerwho cameof agein the cityof Detroitduringthe firsthalf of thetwentieth century.While differences in race,class or gender playeda role in individualoralhistory partnerships, generational identitydifferencewas an issue within communicationdynamics or allpartners.All studentoral histo-rians were from 'GenerationX' or the tail endof the 'baby boomer' generation, while eldersubjectscame fromgenerationswhich grew upin the United States' Great Depression of the1930s, or duringWorldWarII.Students prepared to create oral histories

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    with theirpartnersby reading how to' texts anda rangeof sampleoral histories collected fromDetroit residents.14heyalso createda timelineof Detroithistory; onductedand wroteup twopractice nterviews(one with a classmate,onewith an elder familymember);and developedinterviewprotocols or workwith theirpartner.After collecting, transcribingand writing upinterviews,studentswrote a focused, narrativediscussion of one aspect of their subject's ife,and a reflective analysisof what they learnedthroughdevelopingan oralhistory.The follow-ingdiscussiondrawsfromwritingproduced orall of these assignments.BRENDA AND DR ALEX WARE 15Brenda,a young,white womanborn at the tail-end of the baby-boomer generation, and DrAlex Ware, an African American born at theend of the 1920s, were both pleased with theoralhistory heycreated;butBrenda's eflectiveanalysisof herwork drew attention to some ofthe silenceswithin their conversations.Reflec-tion on these silences, in turn, suggestsa needfor increased awarenessregardinghow differ-ent generationalcohorts relateexperienceandhow unconsciousconstructionof age in termsof culturalstereotypescan lead to the oversim-plificationof meaningsconveyedwithin inter-generational alk.Brenda,a nurseandthe motherof two smallchildren,describesherselfas lower middleclassand partof the majority'.Dr Waregrew up ina poorneighborhood n Detroit,but wenton toearn a doctorate in education and become asuperintendent f schools.The oralhistory heycreated focused on how Dr Ware 'overcamemany obstacles in his life to achieve hisdreams'.16 renda itledDr Ware'soralhistory,'The Sharecropper'sSon and The Line'. Thetitle refersboth to Dr Ware'sruralroots - hisfathercamenorthfrom Alabamaas partof thegeneration of southern Blacks who came towork in Henry Ford's automobile factories -and his struggleto cross the metaphoricdivi-sionbetween heneighbourhoodwhere hegrewup and OaklandAvenue. Both Brendaand DrWare constructedthis division as engenderedprimarilyn termsof race.

    Whiledevelopingthis oralhistory,Dr Wareand Brendatalked extensively about race. DrWare spoke of Brenda as an excellent writerand said she got the focus and tone of his lifeexperiences 'just right'.17This satisfactionreflects their agreement regarding issuesconnected o injustice,oppressionand the needfor socialchange- the focus of the oralhistory.At the same time, Brenda'sreflective analysisobserves that Dr Ware talked about his ownand his sons' accomplishmentsdifferentlyand

    with greater frequencythan those of his wifeand daughter.To account for this difference,Brendawrote:I feel it is important o include the fact thatDr Ware is from a different generation,with different values and beliefs than mygeneration.He related his idea of a familywitha wife who would fulfill thetraditionalrole of homemakerand mother.Althoughhis wife attendedcollege and had a degreefor teaching,he expectedher to be a stayathome wife and mother. . . duringourmeet-ings he often spoke of his two sons andtheiraccomplishments ndspoke very ittleabout his daughter and her accomplish-ments. The senseof menbeingmoreimpor-tant than women or more value beingplacedon men than on womenmayhave todo with race, but I feel thatage or genera-tion has a greater bearing on this valuesystem.18Brenda then pointed out that she inter-preted familyandgender quite differently.I was raisedto believe that I needed to beable to take care of myself. . . I was notexpectedto get married,have childrenandraisemy familywhilemyhusband arned hefamily ncome. Whilemymom was a stayathome mom, my parentsfelt that a womanneededto be able tomakeher ownway.[MyhusbandandI] reacheda point . . . whereIdid not haveto work . . however could notimaginemylifewithoutmywork.19

    In this writing Brenda locates Dr Warewithina communalstoryof familyand genderroles which she representsas widely acceptedfor his generationbut not for hers. She identi-fies her parentsas the source of her differentbelief that financial independence and mean-ingful work are important for women. Herresort to childhoodexperienceand herparentsas the basis for her beliefs supports Nelson'sconclusion,and Brenda'sawarenessof shiftingrelationships between communal stories andgenerational dentity seem to have helped herto contextualize and understand Dr Ware'sstory. However, further analysis of howBrenda'sreflection on generationaldifferenceaffected their interactionssuggests a need fororal historians to consider how individualsubjects position themselves within genera-tional stories, and how these positions can becomplicated by age and culturalassumptionsrelated to age.Brenda'sanalysisof Dr Ware'sassumptionsaboutgenderbecomesmoreproblematicwhen

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    we realise hatBrendaandDr Waredid not talkaboutwhat Brendaperceivedas DrWare'spriv-ilegingof maleexperience.Brendawrites: Ididnot want to challengehis beliefsor offend. . . Isawnothingto gainby possiblyantagonizingDrWare.'20Brenda did not talk about women,gender roles and work out of a reluctance to'challenge', offend'or 'antagonize'Dr Ware.This reluctance reflects both Brenda'sconsciousness of differences in generationalidentity,andherassumptionsaboutageingandage-related behavior. It also suggests thatnovice oral historiansmaydecide which topicsto open and which to avoid on the basis ofassumptions about subjects' beliefs, and anaccompanyingdesire not to 'challenge' thosebeliefs. This tendency resonates with findingsby ageing and cognition researcherswho findthateldersand theirbeliefs oftenreceivespecial'respect' from youngeradult interviewersdueto prevailingcultural assumptions that eldersbecome set in their ways.21This assumptionleads younger interviewers to assume, withBrenda,that raisingan alternativeperspectivenecessarily results in offence. Both lifespanresearchand,eventually,Dr Ware's ubsequentremarks, indicate that this assumption is notnecessarily he rule.Afterthe project'scomple-tion Dr Warerevealedthat not only did he andhis wife engage in on-going discussion of thewisdom of theirdecision thatshe stayat home,but that they, like Brenda'sparents, stronglysupported their daughter's ndependence andwork. Dr Ware was surprised and dismayedthat Brenda had interpreted him as stillinvestedin his generation'spatternsfor genderdiscrimination.His psychologicalrepositioningwithinhis cohort'sgenerational toryforgenderroles is in keepingwith lifespanresearchwhichshows that older adults 'arejust as flexible asyounger adults in responding to changes insociopolitical climate'.22At the same time, DrWare'spatternfor representingandvaluinghisfamilyandchildren,one whichprivilegedmaleexperience and accomplishments through itsform rather than its intent, is also in keepingwith lifespan research. ReminiscenceresearcherRuthRaywrites that while lifespanresearch finds that elders engage in on-goingpsychologicalchangewith respectto social andpersonal ssues, it does not find accompanyingchange in the scripts through which eldersrepresent heirlife stories.Thatis, while elders'internalconceptualizations f who theyare andhow theyrelateto othersevolve throughout helifespan,eldersmaycontinueto represent heirnew perspectivesthrough patternswhich werefixed in a muchearlier ife stage.23According oRay, changesthat takeplace in culturalscriptslag far behind those that take place in individ-

    ual lives'.24 ecauseof this, the forms elders useto relate their stories may complicate youngerlisteners' understandingof what theymean toconvey.AGE-RELATEDOCATIONWITHINCULTURALTORIESOF AGEINGIn response to questions about what studentsexpectedof theirelderwritingpartners,Jessica,an AsianAmericanwrote:

    I imagined a bunch of old guys with theirpants pulled past their belly. . . whosehobbies consisted mostly of playing bingo.I pictured a group of white ladies sittingaround a table reminiscing about theirgrandkids.I assumed that these would bethe typeof seniorswho drive 35 mphin the55 mph zone. I thought these would betypical seniors that count out every lastpenny from their pocket before decidingthatthey [don't]have the proper changeatthe grocerystore.25

    These expectationsreflect the 'Americanor(Western) . . . cultural constructionof old age... as declining , closeto death , inactive ,sick and the like'.26Age-relatedresearch oncognition suggests that we form these negativebeliefs about ageing and cognitive abilitieswhen we areyoung, and, like scriptsfor repre-sentinglife stories,theyremainrelatively tableacross the lifespan. 27According to Ray,whocites sociolinguists studyingspoken discourse,'. . . young people regularly overaccommo-date their talk to older adults, targetingtheirspeech not to the individualper se but to thesocial persona of an elderlycommunicator,whom they generallycharacterizeas incompe-tent, slow,old-fashionedand inflexible'.28To makethingsmorecomplicated,Americancultural toriesof eldersas failing,close to deathandirrelevantare embeddedwithin theiroppo-site - a story of age as a journey that bringswisdom. In this culturalstory,old age is to beemulatedand respected, both because it helpsus understand he past, and becauseit teachesus how better to understand he future.Writingbyanotherstudent,Ellen,a white, 'GenerationX' studentfrom a wealthyDetroitsuburb, llus-trates this complementary stereotype. Shewrites: 'I believe stronglythat with age comesexperienceand with experiencecomes knowl-edge'.29As studentsmet andworkedwiththeirelderwriting partners, they moved quickly frompredispositions orstereotypesof 'ageas decay'to stereotypesof 'ageas repositoryof wisdom,'but even when confrontedwith the detail andcomplexityof elders' self-representations, hey

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    The HannanSenior CreativeWriting Group atthe Luella Hannan,a non-profitorganizationserving the needsof Detroit areaolder adults.Members of theCreative WritingGroup oftenworked withstudents as writingpartners for oralhistory projects

    did not step wholly outside of culturalrepre-sentations for their senior partners.This is inkeepingwith studies fromsocial cognitionandageingwhich report that as we move throughthe life course,conceptualizationof self movesfrom 'those with little differentiationbetweenself and other and heavyinfluence from socialconventions toward definitionsthatemphasizecontextual, process-related,and idiosyncraticfeaturesof selfhood'.30 hat s, as we growfromyouthto late-life,we move awayfromdefiningourselves and others primarily n terms of thecultural stories available to us, and begin todevelop definitions in terms of 'contextual,process-related, and idiosyncratic features'which reflect the conflicted and sometimesincoherentdetails of lived-experience. n lightof this, student difficulties with stepping intointerpretations which contradicted or fellwhollyoutside of the culturalscriptsavailableto them, are understandablenot as failingsinanalysis,but as characteristics f theirstage indevelopment.How elder subjectsare named within theiroral historiesprovidesone more illustrationofthe complex relationships among identity,perceptionandrepresentationwhich affect thetranslation of experience into words. In allcasespseudonymsused in thisessayareexactlyparallelto how students referred o their part-nersin theirwriting.Although heeldersubjectin the firstexample s referred o as 'DrWare',in general,most elder subjects,both male andfemale, were referredto by their first namesonly, and throughout this article, I refer tostudents by first names. In the one other casewhere an elder partner held an advanceddegree,shewas alsoreferred o bysurnameandtitle. While writingfrom this projectdoes notprovidesufficient nformationto infergenera-tional assumptions which underlie most ofthese choices for naming,the identificationbytitle of the elders with advanceddegrees, both

    male and female, suggests investment in self-representations in terms of cultural designa-tions of their individual achievement. Thesepreferences may connect to identities struc-tured by social scripts associatedwith genera-tion, or with race and class.31At the sametime,other featuresof elders' representations llus-trated the movementawayfromsocial conven-tions and 'toward definitions that emphasizecontextual, process-related,and idiosyncraticfeaturesof selfhood'reportedbythe literature.JESSICA AND REBECCAJessica, the Asian American student whoexpected to meet old white ladies reminiscingabout theirgrandkids,developedanoralhistorywith Rebecca, an African American womanwhose life story clearlydid not fit the culturalstory of hard work overcoming injustice, andwhose resilient spirit and attitude defiedWesternstories of age. In interviews, Rebeccatold a storyof a life of honest, hard work thatwent unrecognized and unrewarded.Jessica'sreflective analysis of her work with Rebeccastates: '[Rebecca's] past has been one tragedyafteranother.She was the victim of rape,crime,and betrayal. . [herexperience]seems almosttoo unreal to happento just one person'.32Jessicaalso struggled with the realizationthat Rebecca's ife storyrefusedto fallcomfort-ablywithin culturalstories of age. Rebeccadidnot see her life as 'over',rathershe saw her lifeand her writingas forces which would changethe future.When askedwhyshe wantedto takepartin the oralhistory project,Rebeccawrote:'I want to put my storyof crimein the paper.Iwant to write about crime in Detroit so thepoliticianswillget up anddo something or thiscity.'33Rebecca's self representations contra-dicted the culturalstorythat a life's hardworkis rewarded with success, and positionedRebecca within a life where she was not readyto stepasideor retire.Jessica'smpulseto repre-

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    sent Rebecca in terms of prevailing culturalstories is not exclusive either to Jessicaor toyoungadulthood.Inher work on reminiscenceandwriting Raydescribes how 'older feministshave exposed the ageist and limiting assump-tions' attached to the romanticizingof elders'pasts such that they are objectifiedand turnedinto 'museumpieces'.34If Rebecca's vitality made it difficult forJessica o sumup Rebecca's ife storiesin termsof loss and tragedy,neither did Rebecca's lifetranslateeasilyinto a storyof wisdom attained.Rebecca's wisdom was not received and herinjusticesremainedunvindicated.In Rebecca'slife, Jessicawas confrontedwith a storywhichseemed sure to move her outside young adult-hood's impulse to create coherence. What infact happened,was that Jessica'swritingabout'whatshe learned'was not entirelyresolved,yetit persisted n attempting o fit Rebecca'sstoryinto a narrative f growthandaccomplishment.Rather than abandon these concepts, Jessicaseems to have resolved problems with fit bymodifying the meritocracy's definitions of'success'. In the conclusion to her analysis ofher workwith Rebecca,Jessicawrites:

    I sit herewith a mixedfeeling, confused onwhat I shoulddo to help her. One thingforsure,Rebeccadeserveshappiness.At timesIwish Rebecca's ife was different,but thenI think to myself who am I to be sympa-thetic, who saysshe needs any sympathyatall. Her life has made her the character heis today. . . . One importantlesson I havelearned from Rebecca is that althoughpeople live through tough times, it is theirhopes anddetermination hatbringout thebest in people.35What is interestingabout Jessica's olutionis that her changes in the dominant culturalstory's criteria for success redefined materialsuccess in terms of the creation of character.This move allows Rebecca to be seen as

    successful,despite her lack of materialreward,and therefore o remain nside the cultural torywhere a well-lived life receives its just rewardin old age.This move also constructs Rebecca'slife as about relationshipand character, atherthan as aboutthe intellectual,social or materialaccomplishmentswhich are the more conven-tional bases for success within meritocracystories.While Jessica's nterpretationof Rebecca'slife as the creationof 'the character he is today'is not quite in keeping with Rebecca's ownconception of her life as an agent for changeand social justice, Jessica's nterpretation s inkeeping with the life-stage work and interests

    of late adolescence. Life-coursedevelopmentresearch designates young adulthood as animportantperiodfor thedevelopment,elabora-tion and consolidationof important eaturesofidentity throughreminiscenceand other narra-tion.36What is more, research nto the uses ofreminiscence uggests hat whileyoungeradultsand elders use reflectivenarrativeswith differ-ent frequencies for a variety of differentpurposes,one function that is more importantin young adulthood than in late life is thecreation and exploration of identity.37So itseems, at least on the surface, that Jessica'sinterpretation f Rebecca's ife story growsoutof life-tasksspecific to Jessica'sdevelopmentalstage, rather han to Rebecca's.This same researchreportsthat olderadultsuse reminiscencemore frequently o teach andinform than do youngeradults, and finds thatlifework connected to teaching and guidingfuturegenerationsunfoldsduringmid and latelife.38 aken ogether,Jessica'swritingand lifes-pan findingsabout functions for reminiscencesuggest that oral historians in different lifestages maytend to perceivesubjects'self-repre-sentations n terms of the functions attached otheir own current life stage, ratherthan thoseof the speaker.Morespecifically,t suggests hatwithout reflectiveawarenessof how their ownlife-stageand generational dentity may shapetheir perceptions and representations, inter-viewers may tend to organize and understandexperiences in terms of narratives and issuesconnected to their own life stage.This is not initself either a distortion or a bar to writingthe'truth' since interactions between researchersand subjects and the resulting differences in

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    In addition todocumentingchanges in thetechnologyassociated withphotography, thesetwo portraitsillustrategenerationaldifferences incultural storiesabout family. Onephoto from Detroit,Michigan in the1920s shows afamily of six withparents standingand children infront (photographby permissionEmilia Grombala).The other photofrom Michigan in2003 shows thechildren of theauthor and dogs,(photograph byMelanie Cobb)

    perspective have always been integral to theoral history document. At the same time, asdiscussed in the concluding section, increasedawareness of age-related assumptions andorientations can enrich the practice of oralhistory n myriadways.QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDYIn some sense, these findingsare neither reve-latory nor even particularly original. Oralhistory is an ongoing illustration of the age-related tendencies of subjectsand researchers:how membership n a generationalcohort canstructurerelationshipsto particulardominantdiscourses; how assumptions about age candrive both the focus and content of interviews;and how both oral historiansand theirsubjectsinterpretand enactage-related dentitiespecu-liar to their own particular ife stage. What isnew in this discussion is an attemptto theorizeandapplythegrowingbodyof interdisciplinaryresearch n life-coursedevelopmentto work inoral history. Such a move offers if not a newinterpretive perspective, at least a particulargroundfor re-interpreting ow embedded andunacknowledgednarrativesof age and genera-tion, patterns for talk, and age-related socialcustomsoperatewithin ourwork.Forexample,withrespectto BrendaandDrWare's failure to talk about issues related togender, ifespanresearch uggeststhat Brendasreluctance to open discussion arose from acombinationof her 'respectfor elders' and theassumption hatidentifyingherselfas holdingaconflicting position would be perceived asdisrespectful.Questionsof interest o oralhisto-riansarisingfrom this situationmight include:

    how do such intergenerational interactionsinfluenceand revise not only the materialthatis collected during the interview,but also theinterpretation f materialby readersand otherresearchers?How can reflectionuponourownage-relatedand generational dentitiescompli-cate and enrichbothparticipationn interviews,andreadingsof work within ourdiscipline?Or,with respect to the complexities of interpreta-tion Jessicaconfronted in Rebecca's life: howmight we characterizeand account for inter-pretive dynamics which arise when late-lifetendencies toward the individuationof experi-ence are put in conversation with youth'stendencyto perpetuatestereotypes?And howdo such intergenerational interactionscontribute o the revisionorperpetuation f thecultural stories through which they areperceived and articulated? To put it anotherway, in Jessica and Rebecca's partnership adisjunction arose between what the subjecthoped to say and what the student oral histo-rian was able to understand. How do suchdifferences n perceptionconfound or sharpenthe practiceof oral history?Is this disjunctiontypical or inevitable in talking across genera-tions? And if miscommunication s inevitable,how does such unavoidablemisunderstandingaffect the form and content of the culturalstories younger generations 'inherit' fromelders?The objectof suchquestionsis not to estab-lish the 'truth'about what a subject reallysaid,or to construct the 'right' interpretationof aninterview; rather it is to develop theory andmethod for gathering oral history which is arich accountof the changing patterns through

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    which individualscreatemeaningsat differentpoints n the lifespanandacrossgenerations.Bybecoming increasinglyaware of tacit genera-tional identities and assumptions, embeddedage-relatedmeaningsand the resultinggaps incommunicationboth within the interview tself

    and within thewriting,conversation, ranscrip-tion and interpretation which surround thecreation of oral history,researcherscan createmore powerfuland more complex representa-tions of the lives within the materials theycollect.

    NOTES1 ShernaBergerGluck,'From irstGenerationOral Historianso Fourth nd Beyond',TheOralHistoryReview,vol 26, no 2, 1999, p 1 Seealso DavidDunaway, Introduction:heInterdisciplinaryf OralHistory1,n DavidDunawayand Willa Baum eds),OralHistory:An Interdisciplinarynthology,WalnutCreek:AltaMiraPress,1996, pp 7-9; and Ronald .Grele, 'Directionsor OralHistorynthe UnitedStates,' nDunawayand Baum,1996, pp 62-84.2. LuisaPasserini,WorkIdeologyandConsensusUnderItalianFascism',nRobertPerksand Alistair homson eds), TheOralHistoryReader,London:Routledge,1998, p 55.3. AlessandroPortelli, WhatMakes OralHistoryDifferent1,nPerks nd Thomson,1998,p67.4. Exploringaced, classed and gendereddimensions f subjectivity as integralo secondgenerationoral historians'nvestmentnempoweringnarrator nd interviewerlike. Forexamples,see Nancy A Naples, (ed),Community ctivism nd Feminist olitics:Organizingacross Race, Class, and Gender,New York:Routledge,1988. Forongoingtheorizationf subjectivityee LuisaPasserini,

    Becoming Subject nthe Timeof the DeathoftheSubject,', November2004.S.Joanna Bornat,OralHistory s a SocialMovement:Reminiscence nd Older People,'inPerks nd Thomson,1998, pp 189-205; EliotWigginton,'Reaching cross the Generations:The FoxfireExperience,'n Perks nd Thomson,1998, pp 206-21 3.6* ErikEribon,Identitynd the LifeCycle, NewYork:Norton, 1980; Janet Helms ed),Blackand WhiteRacialIdentity: heory,Research,andPractice,Westport,CT:Greenwood, 1990; LeXuanHyandJane Loevinger,MeasuringEgoDevelopment, econd Edition,Manwah, NJ:LawrenceEarlbaum, 996; LawrenceKohlberg,TheMeaningand Measurement f MoralDevelopment,Worcester,AAA: larkUniversityPress,198 1 Giesela Labouvie-Vief,sycheandEro:Mind,Gender and the LifeCourse,Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityress,1994;

    WilliamG Perry,r,Forms f IntellectualndEthicalDevelopmentntheCollege Years:AScheme, New York:Holt,Rinehart nd Winston,1968, George Valliant,TheWisdomof theEgo, Cambridge,AAA:HarvardUniversityress,1993.7. Nancy J Evans,Deanna S Forney, ndFlorenceGuido-DiBrito,tudentDevelopmentnCollege: Theory,Researchand Practice,SanFrancisco:Josse^Bass, 1998, p 10.S.Jeffrey Dean Webster and BarbaraKHaight(eds),CriticalAdvances in ReminiscenceWork:FromTheory oApplications,New York:Springer, 002, p xv.Joanna Bornat Reminiscence nd OralHistory,'nWebster and Haight,2002, p 33.10. SusanBluck,AutobiographicalMemory:ExploringtsFunctionn EverydayLife,'Memory,vol 11, no 2, 2003, pi 13.11. KatherineNelson, 'Selfand SocialFunction: ndividualAutobiographicalMemoryand CollectiveNarrative',Memory,vol 11, no2, 2003, p 125.1 a. Nelson, 2003, p 133.1 3. LuisaPasserini,SharableNarratives?Intersubjectivity,ifeStoriesand ReinterpretinghePast',notesfor a talkpresentedat the AdvancedOralHistory ummer nstitute,erkeley,11-16August,2003,, November2004.1 4. Amongother exts,students ead ElaineLatzmanMoon's collectionof oral historiesbyDetroitesidents,UntoldTales,UnsungHeroes:An OralHistory f Detroit's fricanAmericanCommunity, 918-1967, Detroit:Wayne StateUniversityress,1994; and the NationalEndowmentor the Humanities'My HistorysAmerica'sHistory:15 ThingsYouCan Do toSave America'sStories,Washington,DC: TheNationalEndowmentor the Humanities,1999.Students lso read oralhistories nd personalrecollections n theMy Historys America' 5. Allnames for students nd subjectsarepseudonyms.1 6. UnpublishedReflectiveEssay by Brenda,1999.1 7. ConversationswithDrAlexWare, Fall

    1999, Spring2000.1 8. UnpublishedReflectiveEssay by Brenda,1999.1 9. UnpublishedReflectiveEssay by Brenda,199920. UnpublishedReflectiveEssayby Brenda,199921 UrsulaM Staudinger nd MonishPasupathi, Life-spanerspectivesn Self,Personality,nd Social Cognition,1nFergus MCraikand Timothy althouse eds), TheHandbook of Aging and Cognition,SecondEdition,Manwah, NJ:LawrenceErlbaumAssociates,2000, pp 633-689.22. Staudinger nd Pasupathi, 000, p 647.23. RuthRay,Beyond Nostalgia: Aging andLife-StoryWriting,Charlottesville,A:Universityof VirginiaPress,2000, Chapter3, pp 71-105.24. Ray,2000, pi 04.25. UnpublishedReflectiveEssay byJessica,1999.26. RobertLRubenstein,Reminiscence,PersonalMeaning,Themes,and the ObjectRelations f OlderPeople',inWebster andHaight,2002, p 154.27. ChristopherHerzog and David F.Hultsch,'Metacognitionn Adulthood nd Old Age', inCraikand Salthouse,2000, pp 4 17-467.28. Ray,2000, p 35.29. UnpublishedReflectiveEssay,Ellen,30. Staudinger nd Pasupathi, 000, p 65 131. Ray,2000, pp 71-105.32. UnpublishedReflectiveEssay, essica,1999.33. Informalwriting o reflect n participationinthecourse, Rebecca, 1999.34. Ray,2000, p 36.35. UnpublishedReflectiveEssay, essica,1999.36. Dan PMcAdams,'Identitynd LifeStory1,in RobynFivush nd CatherineA. Haden (eds),AutobiographicalMemoryand the Constructionof a NarrativeSelf:Developmentalnd CulturalPerspectives,Manwah, NJ:LawrenceErlbaumAssociates, 2003, pp 188-194.37. JeffreyDean Webster, ReminiscenceFunctionsnAdulthood:Age, Race, and FamilyDynamicsCorrelates',nWebster and Haight,2002, pi 49.38. Webster, 2002, pi 50.

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