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Volume :27 Issue : 2 1999      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

The Biographical Method: Diverse Uses of Life Stories and Life Histories

Auther : Foudil Delliou

A method of study referred to as the biographical method is being rediscovered in the field of social science. This article describes this qualitative approach and analyzes its main types: autobiography, biography, and life history. It reviews the use of the method in America, Europe, and the Arab World with different theoretical approaches (marxism, structuralism, empiricism, and symbolic interactionism) and with a variety of population types including: peasants, children, adults, delinquents, native people, immigrants, and normal people. The positive and negative aspects are discussed. Theoretical questions and methodological problems are raised including: (1) coherence and ordering of items in the life history among intrinsic and extrinsic variables, and in different histories (various sessions and informants), (2) differences between the life history as a subjective mirror and as a more objective window, and (3) the theoretical and methodological limits of deviant and marginal histories, focusing on the subject, the who of biographical studies, at the expense of normal histories and the how and why.

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