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Biography and turning points in Europe and America

Biography and turning points in Europe and America

Karla B. Hackstaff
Feiwel Kupferberg
Catherine Négroni
Copyright Date: 2012
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  • Book Info
    Biography and turning points in Europe and America
    Book Description:

    This sociological collection advances the argument that the concept of a turning point expands our understanding of life experiences from a descriptive to a deeper and more abstract level of analysis. It addresses the conceptual issue of what distinguishes turning points from life transitions in general and raises crucial questions about the application of turning points as a biographical research method. Biography and turning points in Europe and America is all the more distinctive and significant due to its broad empirical database. The anthology includes authors from ten different countries, providing a number of contexts for thinking about how turning points relate to constructions of meaning shaped by globalization and by cultural and structural meanings unique to each country. The book will be useful across a wide range of social sciences and particularly valuable for researchers needing a stronger theoretical base for biographical work.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-0740-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Notes on contributors
    (pp. iv-vi)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Advancing the dialogue on turning points
    (pp. 1-8)
    Karla B. Hackstaff

    As long as we have a notion of a self-identity, most people have a moment in their life when they have been forced to recognise, as a result of events, that ‘I am not the same as I was, as I used to be’ (Strauss, 1959, p 95). This is the basic definition of the sociological concept of ‘turning points’ provided by Anselm Strauss in his 1959 book,Mirrors and masks: The search for identity. Since then it has been an important sociological concept for investigating identities over a lifetime in the context of an ever-changing structural, cultural and interpersonal...

  5. ONE Unpacking biographical narratives: investigating stories of artistic careers in Northern Jutland, Denmark
    (pp. 9-40)
    Feiwel Kupferberg

    The concerns of sociologists when engaging in biography research are different from both the caring professions and oral history. Although there are clear parallels between, in particular, oral history and sociological biography research concerning methodological issues related to how to conduct and interpret biographical interviews (Charlton et al, 2007; Perks and Thomson, 2009), there are also important theoretical and conceptual differences. The latter originate from the knowledge interest of sociologists that partly coincide with but are nevertheless slightly different from historians. This can be illustrated by the works of Alessandro Portelli (1981, 1991, 2003). What mostly interests Portelli is how...

  6. TWO Turning points in the life course: a narrative concept in professional bifurcations
    (pp. 41-64)
    Catherine Négroni

    In this chapter I examine how the turning point concept is defined in academic literature and its use in the life course field. While the main tendency in social sciences is to ignore the concept of the turning point, some researchers are keen to study the concept in greater detail and to try to give it a theoretical status.

    My interest in this concept took shape in my research on voluntary professional change and by my participation in a broad debate on this concept initiated at the 2003 conference, ‘Bifurcations and Events’,¹ highlighting a number of major changes in postmodern...

  7. THREE Conjugal separation and immigration in the life course of immigrant single mothers in Québec
    (pp. 65-92)
    Ana Gherghel and Marie-Christine Saint-Jacques

    Single parenthood over the past few decades has been a focus of family scholar research that has shown its characteristics as a family form, its risks and opportunities, as well as its coping mechanisms. Within this body of research, the situation of immigrant single parents is less documented, although specific conditions particularise this experience, as it will be demonstrated in this chapter. We intend to discuss whether or not immigration can initiate a turning point in the lives of parents experiencing a conjugal separation after settling in the receiving society. Examples are drawn from a research¹ based on biographic interviews...

  8. FOUR Migration biography and ethnic identity: on the discontinuity of biographical experience and how turning points affect the ethnicisation of identity
    (pp. 93-124)
    Thea D. Boldt

    There is no single way of understanding migration, but the one I know of is to think of it as a journey with a certain goal. In times of global migration, there are countless people on the move every day. They intentionally set forth to make new achievements and take new chances in life. Thus, it often surprises me that there is hardly any empirical research that emphasises the empowering aspects of migration experience, and only a few researchers who conceptualise migration as an exciting, hopeful, future-oriented biographical project (see Morokvasic, 1991, 1993; Apitzsch, 2000, 2003; Lutz, 2000). Instead, migration...

  9. FIVE Biographical structuring through a critical life event: parental loss during childhood
    (pp. 125-142)
    Gerhard Jost

    Critical life events such as the loss of a job, the end of a relationship or a divorce or, as discussed in this chapter, the passing of a parent, are often accompanied by depression, melancholy, disorientation and loss of perspective on life. It is the concept of critical life events in particular that is a predictor of psychological anomalies. As a general rule, a critical life event condenses the experience and takes the affected person into a stadium of ‘relative imbalance’ (Filipp, 1981, p 24; Inglehart, 1991), therefore requiring the person to reorganise his or her behaviour and experience making...

  10. SIX Decisive turning points in life trajectories of violence among young men in the barrios of Caracas: the initiation and biographical reconversion to non-violent lifestyles
    (pp. 143-166)
    Verónica Zubillaga

    This chapter discusses the usefulness of the concept of ‘turning points’ in the effort to understand, first, the biographical narratives of young men who initiated and sustained a trajectory of violence, and second, the narratives of biographical reconversion related by young men who developed a trajectory of violence, and who managed to redefine and transform their lifestyles as well as their identities and life projects.

    In the first part of this chapter I discuss, departing from the narratives of the youths I have interviewed, that the initiation in violent life trajectories can be described as a clamour for respect that...

  11. SEVEN The turning points of the single life course in Budapest, Hungary
    (pp. 167-186)
    Ágnes Sántha

    This chapter examines the specific phases and turning points of the life course that can influence the decision of young people to choose singleness as a way of life or become single by virtue of structural conditions. The research focused on a group of young, urban singles from Budapest. Singles are understood as those young adults at an age (25–40) typically devoted to family, living alone in their own household and having neither a durable partnership nor children. The population I studied was that of urban singles in their thirties from the upper social strata, having (at least) a...

  12. EIGHT Complicating actions and complicated lives: raising questions about narrative theory through an exploration of lesbian lives
    (pp. 187-206)
    Nicki Ward

    In this chapter I present my own investigator’s story, my version of the stories gifted to me as part of a research study into lesbian experiences of social exclusion and mental well-being, and my interpretation of narrative analysis and the use of turning points in narrative. It is a story that, through the process of development, has been presented to different audiences in different formats, received and interpreted differently by each new audience and consequently reinterpreted. The aim here is two-fold: to demonstrate how turning points provide a useful focus of analysis in research that seeks to explore the interaction...

  13. NINE Religious conversion as a biographical turn/ing: the case of Orthodox believers in contemporary Russia
    (pp. 207-226)
    Liana Ipatova

    This chapter explores the acceptability of the idea of a biographical turn in order to explain women’s conversion to Orthodoxy in contemporary Russia, which has taken place in a situation of widespread mass conversion and religious renaissance in the post-Soviet period.

    In order to trace representations of religious conversion as a biographical turning point (or process) I analysed Orthodox biographical narratives and religious scriptures. This chapter aims to identify typical representational schemes or ways of speaking about religious conversion as biographical experiences that exist at both individual and institutional levels, that is, at the level of biographical narrative and church...

  14. TEN Conclusion: theorising turning points and decoding narratives
    (pp. 227-260)
    Feiwel Kupferberg

    What are turning points, and how are they to be described and analysed? How might a stronger focus on turning points help us to advance sociological biography research? This is what this book is about. It combines theoretical work with a number of concrete, empirical analyses of turning points, starting from different theoretical and methodological traditions within the contemporary academic landscape, but nevertheless with the overall conviction that the concept of turning points is a good start, both to make a theoretical contribution and to provide methodological advice (heuristics) on how to go about interpreting biographical narratives.

    Traditionally, sociologists who...

  15. Index
    (pp. 261-266)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-267)