Hopes and Concerns: Interviewing a victim of Terrorism

This comes along a little late, but nevertheless better late than never I suppose. I feel like my concerns are probably bigger than my hopes at the moment since I am still unsure about who I will be interviewing for this assignment. I have not yet received a solid response but still hoping to create an interview based in the field of terrorism. I actually came across something very interesting quite recently which I wasn’t aware of. We have all of course heard of the 7/7 bombing attacks at King’s Cross in London in summer 2005 I actually remember it quite well because a couple of days after the attacks it happened I was traveling to London for the very first time, what a strange welcome that was!

Anyway, something, or someone rather, I hadn’t heard of before is Sajda Mughal. She was actually present during the attacks and compared to the 52 victims who were unfortunately killed, she survived, witnessed, and decided to dedicate her life to persuading extremist to swear off violence. At the time of the attack, Sajda was 22 and gave up her career to form the JAN trust, a women’s charity that helps women from ethnic minorities, including refugees and asylum-seekers, to integrate society. Besides helping those women, she also aims to stop young people from being radicalized.

When reading her story I knew it would be difficult and delicate to create an interview either with her or with other women part of this charity. Quite frankly, I am not an expert on Islam, not close to being one actually, but I know that if I decide to do an interview in this direction I would be rather thrilled to interview someone like Sajda and not only understand what it must feel like to experiment something such as terrorism, but also understand her stance, and those of other Muslim women in a society such as Britain, in which hundreds of young people have already left to join the Jihad in Syria.

As a whole I am having extremely mixed feelings about this interview. On the one hand I am considerably stressed not having received a formal response, and on the other, I am really looking forward to this interview and to be able to look back at it thinking that this was perhaps one of the most enriching and exciting experience of my academic life so far.

The Role of Oral History in Business History

The use of oral history in firms and business companies can be perceived as a rather boring and perhaps not so useful one – that was my opinion anyway before I started working on my presentation. However, after starting doing some research and reading a couple of articles on the topic it became obvious that oral history played an important role in the industry. Our society is practically ruled by big business owners and ambitious entrepreneurs who fuel and expand our economy yet until the mid twentieth century very little was told about their role and the impact those businesses had on society as a whole, including those considered as the ‘marginalized’.

What can be learned then? Well, a majority of things. On the one hand oral history enlightens us on the role of entrepreneurs of course, not just their success but also the difficulties which shaped their careers; whilst on the other, we get to hear the voices of those affected either positively or negatively by the growing and constantly changing impact of businesses.

I will divide this essay quite simply, first look at the changes gradually brought by the creation of oral histories in the field, and then analyse the various opportunities and challenges involved in the process. We are all aware that oral history as a whole is a combination of both; the identification of sources, the selection of the interviewee, the relationship built between both interviewer and interviewee, and so on, are elements which will determine the success of failure of an interview present in all historical fields. Yet there is no doubt that oral history uncovers the multiplicity of experience, and is a challenge in itself to the claim that there can be a single true universal story.

In the field of accounting, written works such as Plant-closing Decisions and the Market Value of the Firm, by David W. Blackwell, M. Wayne Marr, and Michael F. Spivey have looked at the closing of plants in the light of their impact on stock market figures, and much less on their impact on displaced workers. The bringing in of oral history has allowed us to understand the effect this had on individual workers negatively affected by unemployment for example. It can also enlighten us on what mistakes there are to learn and what can thus be avoided in the future, interviewed employees can also useful when recruiting other employees and so on. With regards to the entrepreneurs themselves, as Ronald K. Mitchell points out, oral history ‘demystifies’ the common norms which constitute their expertise, we are able to explore a different side of their careers, how did their really become successful entrepreneurs? What constituted their choices? How long did it take them?

Yet we should remain aware that this can also imply that in certain cases entrepreneurs may not be keen on revealing certain mistakes, or negative figures of their businesses. Some interview data may also be regarded as strictly supplementary to core business documents and subjected to little evident analysis. As well as opportunities, challenges are equally important to identify in order to make the best use of oral histories, especially in the field of business which is an extensively competitive and difficult arena to become part of, not just as an employee but also as an interviewer.

The Experience of Terror

Throughout my years of studying history I have come across a wide range of topics: the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Crusades, the Cold War, and so on. Yet a lot of my interest today is based on the development of conflicts especially because they have become so intensively mediated in our everyday life. With the recent events in Paris and Charlie Hebdo, I grew particularly eager to base my oral interview on terrorism, although I am aware that it could be a difficult and delicate topic to handle.

I am not sure who to interview yet, but as I am currently working on a radio project on terrorism I will be traveling to interview experts who might be able to recommend me to someone. Interviewing a victim of an act of terror would make the interview an interesting and difficult challenge although it would be an extremely valuable experience. On the other hand, I also find counter-terrorism an appealing aspect of the topic and it would be equally interesting to interview an individual who has worked, or still does, in this particular field.

All of this is a preliminary idea and it is a rather ambitious project, but I hope that the next few weeks will allow me to develop my thoughts a little more accurately and give me the chance to encounter individuals who will accept to contribute to this oral interview.