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The Good News about Life History

The Good News about Life History

(p.46) 3 The Good News about Life History
Symbolic Interaction and Cultural Studies
Michal M. McCallJudith Wittner
University of Chicago Press

Life history research is enjoying a revival. Life histories interest scholars engaged in “post-positivist cultural studies” because of their commitment to “lived experience” and to “developing insights and deepening understanding of the complexities and constructedness of culture through participation in forms of life where observer and observed become interlocutors.” Because they are stories, life histories also interest narrative theorists and those social scientists who are using the insights of narrative theorists to create post-positivist methodologies and epistemologies. At one level, the renewed interest in life history research is a product of scholarship that conceptualizes knowledge as inherently ideological. At another level, the renewed interest in life history research represents a loss of faith in positivism. This chapter discusses the relationship between life history research and symbolic interaction, postmodernism and symbolic interaction, storytelling, and some of the questions feminist, radical, critical, and experimental life historians are asking (for example, questions about meaning) as well as some of the answers symbolic interactionists can and do give.

Keywords:   life histories, life history research, symbolic interaction, postmodernism, meaning, storytelling, positivism

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