Dilemmas behind Life Stories: Naming and Research Ethics in Autobiographical Writing Movement Research

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:09
Oral Presentation
Tazuko KOBAYASHI, Hitotsubashi University, Japan
I will discuss a problem of research ethics that I have confronted in my research on the autobiographical writing movement in Japan. I have conducted life story interview research through an analysis of autobiographical works from the autobiographical writing movement that emerged in the 1980s and continues today. I recognized that it is remarkable that people writing their own lives displayed the authors’ independence and their identity. The writers intend to describe their experiences by publishing a book. I have pointed out that it is important that they express themselves under their own name by providing their name as the author expressing the subjective within the contents of the text. Following the definition of P. Lejeune, I have regarded it as a prerequisite of autobiography that the author corresponds to the subject of the experience described in the book. The name of the author is therefore pivotal in autobiographical writing. However, I encountered an ethical research issue over the naming problem when I wrote sociological papers about whether or not to use anonymous names. If I respected the authors as individuals with their proper names who wrote their own life stores on their own initiative, using some kind of pseudonym, for instance, may violate research ethics. There arose another contradiction when I aimed to understand the idiosyncratic individual through their autobiographical writings at the same time as I had to orientate my analysis so as to generalize from that writer’s specific experiences. These dilemmas can be studied as the results of an ambivalent perspective in research practice. I will explore this kind of sociological contradiction from the point of view of dilemmas in life story research.