How one might generalise from life-history case studies
Ian Watson discusses his recently published book, "A Disappearing World: Studies in Class, Gender and Memory" (more details available here).
The book looks at two working-class communities (Lithgow and Mt Druitt) during the period from the 1940s to the 1980s. Among the substantive themes explored are the hardship and dignity of working lives, the role of alcohol and violence in working-class families, and the failure of governments to provide community resources in Western Sydney.
The methodological themes focus on issues of identity, memory and cultural production. Ian argues that combining insights from sociology, particularly the theorised life-history method, with the traditional tools of the historian, can produce new and valuable insights. In particular, this approach allows researchers to generalise from life-history case studies in ways which avoid the pitfalls of naive empiricism. Ian will discuss this approach, illustrating how combining both cultural and structural analysis can be relevant to qualitative researchers in many fields.
Ian Watson is a freelance researcher, specialising in labour market research. Before becoming freelance, Ian worked at ACCIRT at Sydney University for 13 years. Prior to that he worked in sociology at Macquarie University. While his current professional work is mostly concerned with statistical analysis of large datasets, his academic background is in history and qualitative sociology. Ian is a visiting research fellow at Macquarie University and at the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW and his current academic research deals with wage inequality and neoliberalism in Australia.
Chair: Dr Jen Skattebol