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Deciphering the Social in Experiences of Mental Illness: What can the interface between autobiography and biography tell us?

Publiceringsår: 2012
Språk: Engelska
Dokumenttyp: Konferensbidrag


Social scientists studying mental health from a qualitative approach faces a complex and diverse field. As an empirical field, the object in focus is usually summed up as being concerned with for example, experiences of a psychosis, enactments of the clinician-patient dialectic, or different encounters within, as well as outside, psychiatry. This paper is a suggestion for how to approach and use the unique experiences of living with a mental illness as a material allowing us to decipher common social aspects. The paper discuss a methodology that seeks coherence of the social by starting from the individual who constructs an autobiographical narrative.

The central concern for this paper is the movement from the subjective autobiographical account to sociological conclusions about ”the social”. Informed by literature studies and narrative theory the paper seeks to solve this problem by focusing on the interface between autobiography and biography. Autobiography refers here to that knowledge that comes from an individual who talks about his or her life, but tell a story about common social aspects of how it is to live with a mental illness. Biography refers then to the biographical knowledge actors such as clinicians or other peers creates about the individual with a mental illness. It is the knowledge about them as individuals used when seeking for signs of pathologies. Autobiographies are necessarily not the same as, though they are highly interrelated with, biographies.

In conclusion this paper hold that focusing on the interface between autobiography and biography provide new ways to interpret and analyse life stories on the field of medicine.


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • medical sociology
  • life stories
  • biography
  • autobiography


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