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Schutzian Research

Volume 8, 2016

Hermílio Santos
Pages 163-178

On Biography
A Schutzian Perspective

The paper explores biographical experiences for the understanding of social phenomena, both in the writings of Alfred Schutz himself and in sociological empirical approaches based on his work. Schutz handles biography at least in two different ways: as a manner to investigate the “because” motives for one’s action and as a way to exemplify his theoretical considerations. The first step will be to discuss the biographical experience as a key aspect to understand the motivation for action. It will be argued that for Schutz, biography is not exclusively an individual life’s trajectory, but results of both individual and social experiences, synthesized on the individual relevance systems, which are embedded by the relevance systems of the community in which one has been socialized. In the second step the paper verifies how Schutz deals with his own biographical experiences to discuss theoretical and empirical aspects of his sociology. Examples of the first kind of use of biography by Schutz are, for instance, “The Stranger” and “The Homecomer”, which will be considered in this paper. A third step aims to discuss how these writings influenced empirical researches in sociology based on biographical narratives as a way to access empirically the social construction of reality.

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