Review: Ken Plummer (2001). Documents of Life 2: An Invitation to a Critical Humanism

Volker Wedekind


PLUMMER's book is a substantially revised edition of his now classic 1983 Documents of Life. It is an outstanding introduction to the field of qualitative biographical research, particularly in sociology. The text can be broadly divided into two parts. Firstly, a conceptual overview outlining different types of biographic research, different types of documents, as well as reviews of major developments in the field. The second part focuses on the research process, collecting and managing data, and writing. A major strength is PLUMMER's engagement with new developments in the field, particularly the "narrative turn" in the social sciences and insights from feminism and postmodernism. While the book is an excellent introduction, experienced researchers will also gain from the inclusive overview that PLUMMER provides. Underpinning the entire book is PLUMMER's belief that a revised "critical humanism" is the most appropriate basis from which to study lives. While this is a seductive notion, it is suggested by the reviewer that "critical humanism" is nonetheless problematic as it cannot avoid overemphasizing the individual. This does not detract from an outstanding book and an exemplary revision.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs020134


biographical research; life story; life history; research ethics; humanism; research methodology; narrative

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Copyright (c) 2002 Volker Wedekind

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