'The Continuous Thread of Revelation': Chrononormativity and the Challenge of Queer Oral History

Dr Amy Tooth Murphy (University of Roehampton)
6 January 2015

Is oral history inherently queer? Oral history has long been held as a route to foregrounding silenced and marginalised voices. Feminist oral history in particular has maintained a commitment to hearing voices that challenge hegemonic and androcentric histories. Similarly, historians of sexuality have been keen to use oral history for the exploration of LGBT and queer histories. Such research has proposed that oral history’s unique methodological and theoretical underpinnings are ideally placed for this type of recovery history. However, this paper will argue that developments in the field of queer theory may help to shine a light on, and problematise, such assumptions. Using Elizabeth Freeman’s concept of chrononormativity, I will suggest that some established methodologies of oral history interviewing might, in fact, have the potential to inhibit, rather than facilitate, the telling of queer narratives. In particular, I will argue that the implicit use of normative narrative frameworks to structure storytelling and interview encounters can lead to the inevitable ‘failure’ of queer narrators to achieve narrative composure.