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Michael P. K. Okyerefo: The Autobiographical Self as an Object for Sociological Enquiry. [Abstract]

(Auto)biographies are not accidental products; instead, they are shaped by the social world which gives birth to them. Societies inherently impact an individual’s life by means of their very social structures, which are themselves created through the interaction of social actors within and across a society’s history. In other words, the constant symbiotic interaction between social structures and social actors is an ongoing dynamic that can be observed and explained within historical and contemporary events. Consequently, the different social worlds in which an individual grows up and lives impact that individual’s life course. This conceptual paper draws on my experiences of teaching and researching in different societies. It examines an example of autobiography becoming intertwined with social structure in a way that shapes one’s academic life and discipline through socially constructed networks. It argues that social worlds shape the social actor regardless of society, lending credence to the necessity for biographical and oral history, or “narrative” approaches to sociological discourse across societies. In this paper I rely on different facets of my life to reflect on many years of engagement in teaching and researching sociological material and of the inner longing to unravel the eternal interconnectedness between the personal and the social.

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