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Doing the self: Selfhood and morality in the biographical narratives of three generations of Chilean families.

Bernasconi, Oriana (2008) Doing the self: Selfhood and morality in the biographical narratives of three generations of Chilean families. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This research investigates how people do the self in narrative form. It also studies changes and continuities in self-conceptions over time. Following Charles Taylor, I claim that self-understanding happens within a "space of questions" about the good (what is worthy, right, what dignity involves, and so forth) and, consequently, I associate the study of selfhood with an examination of morality. As a complement to this, and drawing on Michel Foucault's later work, I propose that this relationship between ideas of the good and self-conceptions can be analytically unbounded in the interaction between "ethics" and "technologies of the self". I follow a narrative approach to study the ways the self is assembled through the interpretative practice of the biographical account. I conducted life stories and in-depth interviews with 10 families living in Chile's capital city, Santiago. In each case, I interviewed family members of three generations: a grandparent, a son or daughter and a grandchild. The thesis is structured in four parts: part one includes the introduction, the conceptual framework and the methodology; part two examines the changing relationship between ideas of the good, ethics and technologies of the self over the three generations under study; part three applies the arguments developed in part two to different practices of everyday life, and part four presents the conclusions. The key argument the research advances is that the way the idea of the good becomes redefined through time delineates a process of interiorisation of the moral sources of the self. From the grandparents to the grandchildren, moral authority is gradually and unevenly displaced from an external source to the interior of the self. In the light of the research findings, I conclude with a reassessment of contemporary sociological scholarship on selfhood and theories of generation and historical change. I also reflect on the connections between moral and narrative theories for the study of selfhood, and I consider some implications of this work for Chilean sociology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy, Ethics, Biography
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Sociology

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