Reflecting on the Silences in Biographical Research

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:30-19:20
RC38 Biography and Society (host committee)

Language: English

In biographical research, we are used to approaching life histories comprehensively in order to understand how they develop in specific social and historical circumstances. However, in every research endeavor, certain thoughts, intuitions, feelings or sensations may be left aside as we attempt to come to terms with the complexities of our material and figure out what  the ‘main issue’ is. At best, we put aside the bits and pieces that we left out for later. At worst, we forget about them altogether. In addition, we are all susceptible to blind spots, biases, and myopias, so that we may not even be aware of what we are omitting or avoiding in our research. However, reflection about precisely these gaps or silences in our research may prove essential for developing new and interesting questions as well as comprehensive, responsive, and responsible biographical research. In this session, we have asked biographical researchers to think critically about the gaps and silences and blind spots in their own work. These are some of the questions they will be asked to address:

- What areas of experience do you leave out of your research or even avoid when they crop up in interviews with your informants?
- Which topics do you find difficult to approach and why? 
- Where do you see gaps and blind spots in the theories and methodologies which are used for biographical research?
- What kinds of suggestions can you offer for developing a productive approach to the issue of silences in biographical research?

Session Organizers:
Kathy DAVIS, VU University, Netherlands and Roswitha BRECKNER, University of Vienna, Austria
Roswitha BRECKNER, University of Vienna, Austria
Oral Presentations
Dealing with the Unspeakable – Some Challenges of Biographical Research in War Contexts
Phil C. LANGER, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitat Frankfurt, Germany; Phil LANGER, International Psychoanalytic University Berlin, Germany
Creating a Good Balance between Detachment and Involvement in Biographical Research
Gabriele ROSENTHAL, Georg-August University of Göttingen, Germany
Whose Privacy Is at Stake? Confusing Empathy and Consideration with Remaining Silent
Lena INOWLOCKI, Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, Germany