Autobiography and the search for ‘truth’
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Autobiography and the search for ‘truth’ book
The telling of lives has a rich tradition in sociology. The written and oral accounts of individuals represent a valuable means of gaining access to subjective experience and how they understand themselves. In this study, the experiences of white-collar offenders who have desisted from crime are drawn from published autobiographical accounts written by such offenders i.e. accounts which are commercially available and written to be sold. This chapter provides a rationale for the use of autobiographical accounts as a means of understanding human experience. The chapter starts by outlining what autobiography is and the particular insights autobiographical accounts give, focusing on the issue of truth and subjectivity. Some of the potential problems inherent to a study of autobiography are noted, but it is also observed that these issues are only problematic if certain, rather inflexible notions of ‘truth’ are privileged by researchers. Such notions ignore the unique contributions of autobiography for understanding the way in which particular human experiences are recounted by those who have lived them. Investigation of individuals through their autobiographical accounts is by no means unprecedented and so the chapter moves to consider similar methodological approaches that have been employed within criminology. Following this the sample of offenders is outlined, noting the particular characteristics of the members of the sample and the potentially unusual nature of this group of offenders.