Oral history voicing differences: South Asian doctors and migration narratives

Bornat, Joanna; Raghuram, Parvati and Henry, Leroi (2014). Oral history voicing differences: South Asian doctors and migration narratives. Economic and Political Weekly, 49(30) pp. 60–66.

URL: http://www.epw.in/oral-history/oral-history-voicin...


Oral history's narration of its origins as a method lies in a commitment to challenge, reveal and give voice to those who are disempowered, misrepresented or simply missed out of official, documentary and dominant accounts of the past. People who are marginalised through discriminations based in race and ethnicity, reasons of class and status, gender, age or simply because they have moved location have been at the centre of oral history's achievements. The case of doctors from the Indian sub-continent who travelled to the UK during the twentieth century and who found employment in those parts of the National Health Service where UK graduate doctors were unwilling to work presents us an opportunity to give these assumptions a different twist. In this article we link the memories of a group of South Asian overseas doctors, working in an elite profession with a distinctly non elite group of patients (older, unwell and predominantly working class) to an earlier set of archived interviews with the founders of the geriatric specialty. Used separately and then together, our analysis of these two sets of interviews identifies muted voices, generates recognition and acknowledges ways of understanding and using the polyphony of difference. From this, we argue that the value of re-using archived oral history data lies in the possibility this brings for multiple interpretations of both old and new data and with this new ways of hearing and listening to voices in interviews.

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