Francesco Ricatti University of the Sunshine Coast
Alessandro Portelli recently retired from his position as Professor of American Literature at the University of Rome La Sapienza. Portelli has been highly influential in the development of oral history. Follow the link to listen his recent lecture at Royal Holloway University of London, which marked the launch of the Public History Centre. In it, Portelli highlights some of the experiences that have contributed to the development of his oral history methodology. The work for one of his most recent book, They say in Harlan County, began with an interview in 1973 and continued until the publication of the book in 2010, a reminder to all of us of the importance of longitudinal studies and the need to resist corporate (university) pressure for quick turn around in research, when such pressure might undermine quality and depth. This is a beautiful and intense lecture on the link between oral history, popular music, literature and political engagement. It is also a timely and convincing reminder of the importance of an open and humanistic approach to questions of power, hegemony, and culture. As Portelli suggests towards the end of the lecture, what two persons have in common makes a dialogue possible, but their differences make it meaningful.