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Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Oral History and Life History  

Julien Pomarède

This chapter explores oral history and life history, which can be defined as the methods used to analyse the way actors narrate their past experiences. In oral history, the material is collected by an external observer and is mainly used to focus on delimited past sequences. Life history involves an examination of self-written accounts, such as autobiographies (memoirs), letters, or diaries. It serves the biographical objective of reconstituting individual or collective trajectories. Oral and life history can, therefore, be useful for analysing typical trajectories (the story of a member of a larger group), extraordinary experiences (or ‘deviant cases‘), and actors’ knowledge (relevant to their professional situation). The chapter focuses on key epistemological issues regarding the challenges, opportunities, and limits of using oral and life history as a research method.


Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

27. Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi  

James Casas Klausen

This chapter examines the development of Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi’s theory and practice of non-violent resistance with respect to British imperialism in Asia and Africa. It also covers how Gandhi projected himself and conducted campaigns of resistance. Gandhi’s book Hind Swaraj presented Indian self-rule as personal/individual and political/collective and introduced the theory behind non-violent resistance. Gandhi’s autobiography reassessed his early activism, showing why anti-racist criticisms are not unfounded and elaborated his dilemmas in reconciling non-violent theory and practice in nationwide political campaigns. The chapter analyses the Salt Satyagraha to show how Gandhi attempted to resolve the tensions of non-violent resistance on a mass scale, which served as a model for non-violent protests against white supremacy and dictatorship.