Documents of Interaction: Biography, Autobiography, and Life History in Social Science Perspective

Documents of Interaction: Biography, Autobiography, and Life History in Social Science Perspective

Documents of Interaction: Biography, Autobiography, and Life History in Social Science Perspective

Documents of Interaction: Biography, Autobiography, and Life History in Social Science Perspective

Excerpt

However creatively one travels, however deep an experience in childhood or middle age, it takes thought (a sifting of impulses, ideas, and references that become more multifarious as one grows older) to understand what one has lived through or where one has been.

--V. S. Naipaul, Finding the Center

WHEN THIS BOOK was in its first draft, I wrote to Freddie, the protagonist of chapter 3. He has known and worked with me for the better part of two decades, and he is used to seeing himself discussed in some of my academic writings. This time I sent him the entire book because I was curious to see how he would respond to research conducted with other people, for different purposes. He wrote back: "As usual, you have caught me to a T. Hey Mikey--isn't it time you started calling me by my rightful name? If anybody ever reads your stuff they must know me so well by now they could as well know my real name. But that other business? Is just blague [gossip] you know. Nobody going to care about none of that."

I have respectfully ignored Freddie's advice and have left him cloaked in his accustomed pseudonym, but the rest of his commentary was harder to shake off. On one level, he was speaking as one who usually stands alone in the spotlight of my scholarly scrutiny, a situation he very much enjoys even when my analysis of his behavior is less than flattering. He clearly did not care to be simply part of the crowd in this new book. But, on a deeper level, he was asking the very question that had impelled me to compose this study in the first place: Why should we continue to be interested in the old but so frequently maligned "life history" approaches to social research? Haven't those ap-

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