On the Science of Uncertainty: The Biographical Method in by Franco Ferrarotti

By Franco Ferrarotti

Franco Ferrarotti hopes to steer sociologists clear of overly reductionistic, technical size in their subjects_an strategy that has more and more been problematized via the usual sciences_toward a rediscovery of (auto)biographical fabrics and the worth of the person.

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W e must abandon the privilege accorded to secondary biographical materials. We must bring back to the very heart of the biographical method primary materials and their explosive subjectivity. We are not only interested in the objective richness of pri- mary biographical material; we are chiefly concerned with its subjective fullness of meaning in the context of complex interpersonal communication-reciprocal between the narrator and the observer. Here we are approaching the central problem. How can the subjectivity inherent in autobiography become scientific knowledge?

This use of the biographical method is not in itself illegitimate, but it does demonstrate a radical inability to place the problem of such research at the critical level. Besides the interactionist relation, which revolutionizes the traditional foundations of research in that it presupposes a situation of basic equality between the researchers and the human groups being analyzed, the unique thing about the biographical method is that it allows one to reach social strata and structures of attitudes which, because of their marginal nature and their state of social exclusion, inevitably escape formally 20 Chapter 2 gathered and analyzed data, and the official images society has of itself.

It was personified and, so to speak, fleshed out by specific types whose biographical elements provided sociological material in its particular nature. However, the material provided by biographies was always only material I considered to be illustrative. In the Trattafo di sociologia, I did not go beyond the notion of life history as endowed with primarily integrating functions as regards quantitative data. ’’ I was well aware of the ecological studies of the Chicago School of the 1930s, from Clifford R.

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