International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online)

 

Give-And-Take: Reconceptualizing the Life History as Dialogue
Dr. Sam Pack

Abstract
The individualistic orientation of life histories has long been hailed as an antidote to the generalizing tendencies of ethnographic research. However, the life history method is not without problems of its own, as I explain by referencing some of the most well celebrated life histories and so-called “autobiographies” in the anthropological corpus. The traditional method of composing the life history as a flowing narrative is not only morally dishonest but also intellectually inadequate because it conveys the false impression of a chronologically timeless and uninterrupted soliloquy. By focusing only on the final product, life histories ignore the other two components in the communicative process. In this essay, I emphasize the need to (re-)insert the producer and process into the research equation.

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