chapter  2
22 Pages

The Challenge of Difference: Approaching Comparative Oral History

An exploration of changes in religious and secular ceremonies, beliefs and practices, carried out by interviewing a generation of people whose memories go back over several decades of social and political change in Eastern and Western Europe, and which draws on the expertise of psychologists, oral historians, sociologists and ethnographers, was inevitably going to pose challenges. From the start, striking a balance between detail, difference and universalising generalisation, the RASC research group looked for ways to record, share and analyse interview data which encouraged comparison without losing what was unique or possibly conflicting. The team had drawn up a series of research questions with which to lead their investigation. These related to changes in ritual and ceremony and how these are viewed from late in life; the significance of ritual in the lives of older people; to what extent religious ritual has any attraction for those who have no explicit religious belief and practice; and the nature of secular alternatives.