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Sociologists Back Scholars in Oral History Case

Sociologists Back Scholars in Oral History Case
February 24, 2012

The Council of the American Sociological Association released a statement this week criticizing the federal government for seeking to force a Boston College library to turn over to British law enforcement officials confidential oral history records. The case remains in the courts and has caused considerable alarm among historians who rely on oral history. (The documents in question relate to a violent period in the history of Northern Ireland, with many key players still alive and not expecting their interviews to be public until after their deaths.) The statement from the sociology group says, in part: "The release of the 'Belfast Project' interview data threatens the academic freedom to study difficult and controversial topics. It undercuts the willingness of potential participants in future research to share valuable information. In the short run, such intrusion in research seeking to understand past tragedies can harm the processes through which Northern Ireland now seeks political stability. And in the long run, we must weigh the potential damage to social science that can provide a firmer knowledge base for avoiding these types of conflicts in the future."

 

 

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