The politics of preservation: oral history, socio legal studies and praxis

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Oral history is a surprisingly under-utilized resource in socio-legal studies. This article explores some of the theoretical and experiential reasons for this deficiency. It begins with an overview of both fields to date, including instances of intellectual collaboration. It then considers tensions between qualitative and oral history interviews under the overlapping themes of preservation, accountability, and agency. The concluding section develops these theoretical arguments in light of ongoing ‘real-world’ work in transitional justice. I argue in favour of a flexible, pragmatic, and imaginative response to the politics of oral history preservation and a more critical approach to the relationship between oral history, law, and politics. This is designed to encourage the collection and preservation of material that is otherwise side-stepped, censored, or destroyed. Such an approach would yield benefits not only for the vexed process of ‘dealing with the past’ in post-conflict societies but for socio-legal scholarship more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S74-S87
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Issue numberS1
Early online date23 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2022


  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science


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