08/10/2019 | Writer: Aslı Alpar

The International Memory and History Conference organized by Kaos GL Association ended with the "Oral history" session.

“Oral history enables us for more democratic history” Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

The International Memory and History Conference organized by Kaos GL Association ended with the "Oral history" session.

In the session moderated by Gülay Kayacan, Erdem Gürsu spoke about "Being Lubunya (queer) in the 80s and 90s" and Umut Guven on the oral history studies of "Color Screen".

“Oral history makes it easy to depict emotions”

"We didn't perceive oral history as a memory study in the '90s. In the 2000s, we became aware of it as the field of memory studies in the civil sphere expanded. Oral history studies made it possible for us to write a more democratic history because it narrates human stories. On the other hand, it's a kind of counterhistory. Although classical history writing excludes emotions, oral history makes it easier for us to depict emotions," said Kayacan, leaving the floor to the speakers.

“People who share their stories in oral history studies need to be perceived as lives, not as numbers”

Erdem Gürsu started their speech by telling how Selin Berghan's personal experiences in the book "Lubunya" published by Metis Publications influenced Gürsu's oral history work, "Being Lubunya in the '80s and '90s".

"The 1980 coup was one of the events that most affected the lubunyas in Turkey. When you start the oral history study from that time, you need to reach people, but that wasn't that easy back then. Also how we were going to do it, we didn't know the method but we were working in the field of human rights so it was supposed to be a flawless study," Gürsu said, referring to how they conducted the oral history study.

Gürsu stated that they met with 9 people from different cities, and said "We loved what we did. When a person tells you something, they tell you right from wrong. You shouldn't interfere with that. We have noticed this, it is not like reporting work because oral history studies really unique".

Referring to storytelling, Gürsu said, "You need to perceive the individuals that tell you their stories as lives not as numbers, not with a quantitative perspective. Every job you don't see like this is a job where you materialize people's narratives."

Oral history is an act of defiance!

Taking the floor from Erdem Gürsu, Umut Güven said how the oral history research "Color Screen" affected their life: "There is a cliché that I've heard all the time during my early activism, which I often get quite tired of hearing.  "How can you convince anyone in Turkey, have you beat homophobia yet?" Actually, hearing these sentences never really demotivated me."

Describing the first time that they got in contact with the LGBTI+ movement as "I had no history", Güven said "The oral history work became the center of my life at that time. Because I was faced with a very concrete vision of my belief that it has effects on the time and place that I did not see anymore", and shared details about the Color Screen interviews.


Lastly, Güven said, “Oral history itself is an act of defiance!”.

*Photography: Semih Varol / Kaos GL
**Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz

Tags: arts and culture, life