Scientific Biographies: A Transdisciplinary Perspective, Biographic Perspectives Series, vol. 1 [Biografie naukowe. Perspektywa
transdyscyplinarna, Seria „Perspektywy Biograficzne”, tom 1]. Ed. M. Kafar. Lodz 2011:
The University of Lodz Press
Andrzej Paweł Wejland
HORIZON – CONVERSION – NARRATION. IDENTITY AND FOREIGNNESS IN THE SCIENTIFIC WORLD OF HUMANISTS
The subject I am considering is the narrative partitioning that is present in the discourse of research communities within the humanities, in particular in the field of cultural anthropology and sociology. Narrative partitioning, when it concerns individual researchers, rests upon a fact that what is private expresses itself solely outside the official public scientific discourse. On the other hand, when the mentioned narrative partitioning concerns the research community, it manifests itself as a sort of abstention or narrative quietness – “the silence” of private (experiences’) histories; their removal into the shadow, or even their annihilation by the dominant narrative, accepting, for instance, only “the pure scientificity”, and warning against any confessional attempts, or simply excluding them.
I try to demonstrate how the phenomenon of narrative partitioning may be analyzed using concepts (borrowed from Bernard J. F. Lonergan and much indebted to hermeneutics) of the horizon (in the metaphorical sense) and conversion, understood as a change of the horizon and a transformation in belonging to the scientific community (i.e. – as in the case of Thomas S. Kuhn – where the replacement of a research paradigm had much to do with religious conversion). Moreover, I employ some additional terms that describe narrative ways, introduced by a humanist scholar, of coping with the situation of living in two separate “worlds”: public and private.
This very duality occurs particularly glaringly when, for example, official scientific discourse demands religious indifference (or what has already been known by the name of an anthropological atheism), while private discourse is based upon religious faith and religious participation which together carry a religious obligation to bear witness through narratives, especially in public situations. Therefore, the case of Mircea Eliade helps me to present difficulties in accepting his phenomenology of religion – transformed, as it is said here and there, in a kind of confession – experienced by much of the scientific world of humanists, including ethnologists. Moreover, this case reveals how the search for identity that oversteps common schemes and accepted norms, exposes one, in science, to rejection, and evokes an undeniable feeling of foreignness (or alienation). The case of Margaret M. Poloma illustrates what the researcher does when she wishes to avoid such a sense of foreignness (alienation) and narrative partitioning, when she, thus, wishes to preserve the unity of narratives in the world of academic sociology and in the private world of engagement (after her religious conversion) in Pentecostal movement. Both of the cases, like many similar situations, manifest the clash of communal standards of a value-free science, in particular “unseasoned” with religious notions – as in the case of anthropology or sociology – and life experiences of researchers, leading to moral tensions inside individuals as well as within research communities.
BIOGRAPHIC EPIPHANIES IN THE CONTEXT
OF DEVELOPING THE QUALITATIVE THOUGHT-COLLECTIVE
Several autobiographical stories presented during a discussion panel held at the Second International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, May 4-6, 2006) provoke me to think over the use of the idea of “epiphany” as it appears in the context of developing the qualitative thought-collective. Widely recognized researchers, such as Yvonna Lincoln, Carolyn Ellis, Norman K. Denzin, Laurel Richardson and Arthur P. Bochner, consider their own epiphanies as the particular turning points affecting their private (“non-professional”) as well as “professional” lives. But what exactly does it mean to experience the moment of epiphany? What is the difference between epiphany and illumination? In what ways can epiphany actually change our lives? And finally, can we distinguish any special forms of scientific epiphanies?
I pose these essential questions trying to analyze the role individuals play in the process of constructing new fields of knowledge.
JUMPING ON AND OFF THE RUNAWAY TRAIN OF SUCCESS:
STRESS AND COMMITTED INTENSITY IN AN ACADEMIC LIFE
This story describes a seasoned professor’s attempts to take stock of her academic life. The main voice is that of the professor as she lives, works, and considers what she cares about. The cacophony of other sounds comes from the questioning voices inside her head, blended with the imagined voices of her dogs Zen and Buddha and the real voices of colleagues and her partner Art. The author examines the ups and downs of her academic life and how stress, interruption, caring, and committed intensity play out. She provides her story as a mindful revision of how she wants to live and to stimulate readers to reflect on their own lives.
MICHEL FOUCAUL AS HETEROTOPIA
Michel Foucault’s scattered “autobiographical pieces” supported by the vivid biographical reminiscences of Didier Eribon, George Dumézil and others, give the reader a unique opportunity to examine the interrelationship between life and work of that great thinker and unusual person. After Charles C. Lemert and Garth Gillan, I try to interpret the phenomenon of “Michel Foucault” within the scope of terms worked out by the author of Les mots et les choses. The key notions here are “heteroclicity” (a word used for the first time in The Order of Things  in connection with two other words: “heterotopia” and “utopia”) and “heteroclite” (meaning a thing or person deviating from the common rules, or from common forms).
In Foucault’s vocabulary heteroclicity relates to – hidden in language and transcending it – space potentialities that can be found in any type of culture and society. People are split permanently into aspiring to live either in the world of utopias or heterotiopias, in the world of “unreal” and the world of “questioning” of what is imagined as “stable”, or even “everlasting”.
By saying that Michel Foucault is heterotopia, I mean – metaphorically – that on both social and intellectual levels he exists as a kind of non-site – someone destabilized (from a common point of view on sexuality and, in general, socially acceptable behavior) and at the same time destabilizing e.g. conventions of thought. Crossing the borders of outsider and genius reminds then of a list of paradoxical things placed in an old Chinese encyclopedia and derived from there by George Louis Borges (vide Introduction to The Order of Things).
LIFE IN RELATIONS. BIOGRAPHIES OF SCIENTISTS
ACCORDING TO THE ACTOR-NETWORK THEORY
The content of this chapter relates to the issues of philosophy of science and the sociology of knowledge. The main methodological background is the Actor-Network Theory (ANT) that has been developed since the end of the1970’by Bruno Latour, John Law and Michel Callona. I am examining written biographies of scientists to draw the conclusion on science as such. Analyzing biography confirms the belief that the conduct of research is rather a collective work not an individual process. The scientist can be recognized through the heterogeneous networks of relations that allow him to act in the particular way and at the same time giving him the opportunity to achieve the purpose. However, on the other hand, networks can bound the process of research. The networks are shaped by the other scientists, but also by factors such as politics, economic interests and material objects.
Monika Modrzejewska, Marcin Bogusławski
DOES THE “PROFESSIONAL” AND “NON-PROFESSIONAL”
DIMENSION OF BIOGRAPHIES EXIST?
DELIBERATIONS ON AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL STORY BY MICHAŁ GŁOWIŃSKI.
REFLECTION SPLIT INTO TWO VOICES
In this chapter (containing an analysis of the autobiographical novel Kręgi obcości (Circles of Strangeness) by Michał Głowiński) the authors put forward and defend a thesis that setting private biography against career biography should be considered an artificial divide. This interpretation has been done by two relatively autonomous voices – one having its roots in philosophy and the other coming from pedagogical ground.
The philosophical narration is constructed within socio-hermeneutical ontology framework. Marcin Bogusławski adduces Jean-Paul Sartre’s classification in particular. His reflection is two-part. In the first, ontological one, he reconstructs the most vital threads appearing in Głowiński’s novel, whereas in the ontological part he draws a whole array of concepts (human-reality, being-in-the situation, project, comprehension, history and body) connected with the functioning and the comprehension of ontological domain.
While Bogusławski focuses on a philosophical perspective it is Monika Modrzejewska-Świgulska who refers to the social pedagogy and creativity pedagogy concepts. Moreover, she also refers to the basic assumptions of narrative psychology to take a stance on issues that are her main interest, i.e. she seeks an answer to the question of what biography is and how it can be understood.
ETHNOGRAPHIC EXPERIENCE AND THE POLITICS OF BEING POSITIONED
One of the consequences following the reflexive turn in anthropology is a growing interest in the role of autobiographical elements in knowledge production. The aim of these considerations is to analyze the methodological consequences resulting from the statement that anthropological knowledge is constructed by culturally situated subjects. The author takes a close look at the category of experience, which is perceived by her as a tool of fieldwork authentication. Particularly, she is interested in the connections between “individual” and “professional” experience.
“THE HISTORY OF EACH WRECK IS ALSO THE HISTORY OF MINE”
– ON COHERENCE OF THE RESEARCHER’S
AND THE RESEARCHED PERSON’S BIOGRAPHIES
In this chapter I present both the situation of an encounter between the homeless and the researcher and a multiplication of challenges and doubts they face in the course of participatory research. My contribution starts with the characteristics of the first meeting („the opening of relation: the homeless – the researcher”), in which I try to find something in common between “us” („adjustment process between the researcher and the homeless”), so to get then to the point of „coexistence of the homeless and the researcher biographies”. These phases of a continuous process let the researcher achieve an “understanding” perspective in her research. At the same time close, the relationship between the homeless and the researcher reveals how the “professional” and “non-professional” meaning of biography is hard to distinguish, leading rather to coherence and to construction of a shared biography line.
Łukasz M. Dominiak
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SELF-MONITORING AS A CONDITION
OF THE REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY.
TOWARDS A PRACTICAL EPISTEMOLOGY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
My reflections are inspired by the thought of Umberto Eco and Michel Foucault on the nature of text and their subjects in contemporary knowledge of man. I try to show that the practice of contemporary humanities inevitably involves the necessity of constant objectivisation of the subject’s position and less the substantial understanding of it. As a solution to this form of anthropological paradox I suggest participatory objectivisation understood as a biographical Self-monitoring, whose application in practice of humanistic writing will increase the resource of a new and verifiable knowledge about man.