Ethnography and Biographical Research
RC38 Biography and Society
What can ethnographers learn from biographical researchers and vice versa? What commonalities and differences are there between the two paradigms? In both research traditions most scholars are committed to interpretative sociology and we therefore think that a continuing exchange is fruitful, especially regarding methods and methodology.
However, both paradigms have ‘defining’ methods – biographical-narrative interviews in the case of biographical research, and participant observation in ethnography. They emphasize different facets of the social world.
In the case of observation, for example, the central focus is often on (inter-)action in its non-verbal and bodily dimensions. Although conversations in certain social settings (often in public or semi-private spaces) are also important elements, the emphasis is not on the self-descriptions of the actors.
An important characteristic of narrative interviews is that the genesis of specific features and patterns of activity and interpretation is taken seriously – in contrast to most ethnographic studies there is a systematic interest in a diachronic perspective.
We invite contributions which are based on a combination of different forms of data collection and which discuss concrete experiences with such combinations in specific empirical projects. We are also interested in contributions which highlight limits or mutual obstructions to the combination of methods.
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