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


  • Volker Wedekind University of KwaZulu-Natal



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


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


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Author Biography

Volker Wedekind, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Volker WEDEKIND is a lecturer in the sociology of education at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He is currently responsible for the development of a new undergraduate teacher education program and teaches in research methods and curriculum studies at Masters level. His research interests focus on teachers and he has published on the impact of desegregation in South African schools, the role of friendship in school organizations and on the impact of policy developments on teachers. He is completing a PhD through the University of Manchester which focuses on the lives and careers of South African teachers by drawing on life history data.




How to Cite

Wedekind, V. (2002). Review: Ken Plummer (2001). Documents of Life 2: An Invitation to a Critical Humanism. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(1).