Documents of Life Revisited

Narrative and Biographical Methodology for a 21st Century Critical Humanism

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  • Edited by Liz Stanley, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • The cultural and narrative turn has had a considerable impact upon research in the social sciences as well as in the arts and humanities, with Ken Plummer's Documents of Life constituting a central text in the turn towards to narrative, biographical and qualitative methodologies, challenging and changing the nature of research in sociology and further afield.

    Bringing together the latest research on auto/biographical and narrative methods, Documents of Life Revisited offers a sympathetic yet critical engagement with Plummer's work, exploring a range of different kinds of life documents and delineating a critical humanist methodology for researching and writing about these. A rich examination of the methods and methodologies associated with contemporary research in the social sciences and humanities, this book will be of interest to those concerned with the use and importance of biographical and narrative sources and documents of life investigations. As such, it will appeal to sociologists, social anthropologists and geographers, as well as scholars of cultural studies and cultural history, literary studies and library, archive and cultural management, social policy and medical studies.
  • Contents: Preface; Introduction: Introduction: documents of life and critical humanism in a narrative and biographical frame, Liz Stanley; Part I After the Posts: Re-Conceiving Methods and Methodologies: Lies and truths: exploring the lie as a document of life, Clair Morrow; Critical humanist thoughts on the Burnett archive of working class autobiography: ‘Nobody wages war with Dostoevsky or Dickens’, Claire Lynch; The essential subject? The very documented life of Myra Hindley, Helen Pleasance; Whites writing: letters and documents of life in a QLR project, Liz Stanley. Part II On Tellings and Retellings: Analysing Stories, Audiences and Constructed Lives: The diarist’s audience, Sally Fincher; Somebody telling something to someone about something? Stories in Olive Schreiner’s letters and Nella Last’s diary, Andrea Salter; Between diary and memoir: documenting a life in wartime Britain, Cate Watson; Forgotten memories? Silence, reason, truth and the carnival, Heather Blenkinsop; Dear Mrs President: children’s letters to the President of Finland as documents of life, Ulla-Maija Salo. Part III The Ordinary, Virtual, Untimely, Sacred: Critical Humanist Knowledge-Making: Identifying the quotidian in the heterotopic universe of Olive Schreiner’s letters, Helen Dampier; Documents of life and the undead: online postmortem photographs and critical humanist ethics, Sue Wise; Writing water: an untimely academic novella, Mona Livholts; Everything speaks: a multidimensional approach to researching the Lithuanian Jewish past, Shivaun Woolfson. Stories and Storied Lives: a Manifesto: A manifesto for social stories, Ken Plummer; Indexes.
  • About the Editor: Liz Stanley is Professor of Sociology at the University of Edinburgh and Director of its Centre for Narrative and Auto/Biographical Studies, UK. She is the author of Mourning Becomes… Post/Memory and the Concentration Camps of the South African War; Imperialism, Labour and the New Woman: Olive Schreiner's Social Theory; Sex Surveyed, 1949 to 1994: From Mass-Observation's 'Little Kinsey' to the National Survey and The Hite Reports and The Auto/Biographical I: Theory and Practice of Feminist Auto/Biography. She is co-author of Breaking Out Again: Feminist Ontology and Epistemology; and The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison. She is editor of Knowing Feminisms: On Academic Borders, Territories and Tribes; Feminist Praxis: Research, Theory and Epistemology in Feminist Sociology; The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick; and British Feminist Histories and co-editor of Debates in Sociology; and Men and Sex.
  • Reviews: ‘Documents of life have been acknowledged as major research resources for a century and more. But they do not always receive the critical attention they deserve. As Liz Stanley and her authors demonstrate here, we need to revisit the humanist tradition that treats lives, narratives and biographies as prime topics of analysis and as sources of insight in the social sciences.’
    Paul Atkinson, Cardiff University, UK

    ‘”Truth is beauty”, Ken Plummer writes in his contribution to this critical volume of essays that respond to his pathbreaking work Documents of Life. This is indeed a beautiful book, wherein truth unfolds through different stories, artfully brought together by Liz Stanley. A book about the thick autonomy and the unbearable lightness of stories entangled in the web of human relations.’
    Maria Tamboukou, University of East London, UK