9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN03 Biographical Perspectives on European Societies

From biographies to social processes. Longitudinal case study analysis

The paper is based on analysis of the biographical approach possibilities in the research of social processes in case study. Material of a longitudinal study records the life stories and information of personal archives of almost all the inhabitants of a single apartment building (consisting of 20 flats) in Riga. The project is realized by the researchers of National Oral History Project of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of Latvia University. The biographies reflect the time period from 1936 to the present, and the resulting life stories reconstruct the inhabitant?s lives as they relate to that building and its history. The large amount of information allows examining of different social processes - change of gender roles, problems caused by denationalization process, memories of forced migration etc. are subjects in life stories. Returning home that was lost due to the occupation and subsequent migration processes, is the object and the goal, being reality and symbol of the end of migration. The political and economic changes beginning in 1990 when Latvia regained the Independence brought about new aspects of social processes - changes of residence due to denationalization, as well as repatriation. The political changes in 1990 pushed the breakout of memories of the generation born in 1920-ies and make possible the transmission of memories of a whole generation. The collected life stories reveal memories which were discussed only in a closed private space during the soviet time but became available in social space after regaining of Independence.
A life story is created in the teller?s present social environment, but it carries influences and experiences from his/her past relationships. The creditability of life stories in the research of social processes is based and tested on both content and social relationships.