Chapter 22: Memory Books as a Methodological Resource in Biographical Research
Rachel Thomson and Janet Holland In this chapter we explore our use of memory books in a qualitative longitudinal study of transitions to adulthood (Henderson et al., 2007).1 The idea of using a memory book emerged from several sources. We wanted to document young people’s changing constructions of self over time, and were aware of the limitations of the interview method. Anthony Giddens’s (1991) theoretical model of the reflexive project of self, in which a biography is organized in terms of flows of social and psychological information about possible ways of life, provided a starting point (Plumridge and Thomson, 2003, p. 214). But we were aware of the need to ground what is primarily a symbolic theoretical account of identity (McNay, 2000) as well as allowing for less coherent expressions of self. We also wanted to understand the resources the young people draw on in this identity work, which we conceptualized in Foucault’s terms as ‘technologies of the self’: historically and culturally specific practices through which the ‘individual acts upon himself’ (sic) (Martin et al., 1988, p. 19). Although it is possible to access these technologies empirically through the narratives that young people construct in interviews, we also wanted to explore the potential for a more embodied and visual methodology that young people could engage with outside the interview setting. Other methodological strategies have been used to disrupt a purely narrative presentation of self in interviews such as photographic albums in oral history and cultural studies (Seabrook, 1991; Walkerdine,...
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