Review Essay: Autobiography as Scientific Text: A Dialectical Approach to the Role of Experience

  • Wolff-Michael Roth University of Victoria
Keywords: fieldwork, anthropology of education, autobiography, ethics, dialectics, reading


The Sneaky Kid and Its Aftermath is a first-person account of the (sexual) intimacy between a researcher (Harry WOLCOTT) and his research participant (Brad, the sneaky kid). Two years after the events, the sneaky kid returned with a vengeance, beating up the researcher and burning down his house. Autobiographical texts may lead readers to confuse author and literary figure of the same name. Any critique of the protagonist potentially can be read as a critique of the author and therefore as an ad hominem attack—to mark the difference I propose to differentiate the two for the purpose of deconstruction (here, Harry WOLCOTT and Wally Haircut, respectively). In my reading, the relationship between Wally Haircut and Brad is highly unsymmetrical in terms of FOUCAULT's knowledge/power concept and BOURDIEU's analyses of the relations between economic, social, cultural, and symbolic capital. Wally Haircut, I will argue in part, had everything to gain in these dimensions and his research participant, the "sneaky kid," had everything to lose. This is just how it turned out. Unfortunately, Harry WOLCOTT failed to draw on existing social theory to provide a reasonable explanation of the events. I conclude with a "two thumbs down. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs040199


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Author Biography

Wolff-Michael Roth, University of Victoria
Wolff-Michael ROTH ( is Lansdowne Professor of applied cognitive science at the University of Victoria. His interdisciplinary research agenda includes studies in science and mathematics education, general education, applied cognitive science, sociology of science, and linguistics (pragmatics). His recent publications At the Elbows of Another: Learning to Teach by Coteaching (with K. TOBIN, Peter Lang, 2002), Science Education as/for Sociopolitical Action (ed. with J. DÉSAUTELS, Peter Lang, 2002), Being and Becoming in the Classroom (Ablex Publishing, 2002), and Toward an Anthropology of Graphing (Kluwer, 2003).
Methodology and Methods