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date: 12 July 2020

Summary and Keywords

The concept of biography plays multiple roles in educational sciences: as a theoretical perspective, as a methodological approach to empirical research, and as a point of reference for pedagogical practice. In the social and educational sciences, biography is theoretically conceptualized as a highly complex social construction that is closely related to the rise of modern societies. As a social institution, biography (or the “life-course”) organizes the social integration and socialization of individuals throughout the social changes in their life span. Biography also provides a cultural “schema” for the presentation and reflection of the self and the other; telling one’s life story is seen from this perspective as a mode of constructing one’s identity. Biography and education are closely reated.

The theme of biography has been addressed by German pedagogy ever since its historical beginnings in the late 18th century. The discovery of the autonomous, educated, middle-class subject is rooted in that interest in biography, which also shaped the process of “biographization” of the lower social strata a century later. At the beginning of the 20th century, emergent concepts of biographical research were elaborated in various social scientific fields to investigate the dynamics and upheavals of modern societies on the basis of life histories. The postmodern criticism of the “subject,” and its instrumentalization by “governmentality” toward the end of the 20th century, has had a lasting influence on educational science as well as on biographical research, resulting in a self-reflecting turn in which basic assumptions and concepts are analyzed and “deconstructed.”

There are several key problems and research perspectives in various subdisciplines of educational science in German-speaking countries, such as general educational theory, historical educational research, adult education, social pedagogy, and methodological debates on research strategies.

Keywords: autobiography, biography, subject, individualization, biographization, life history, autobiographical narrative, qualitative methods, biographicity

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