How to Write an Autobiography for Sociology

The trick to writing a sociological autobiography is to consider your individual life experiences from a wider perspective. American sociologist C. Wright Mills, in his book "The Sociological Imagination," stated that a person can understand his experiences and gauge his fate by "locating himself within his period." Relating how your life and choices are influenced by the times in which you live, and putting them into a historical perspective, are the requisite elements for a sociological autobiography.

Choose an aspect or aspects of your life to consider in a broader view. Are you a child of divorce? Did you have two working parents or a stay-at-home parent? Are you of the first generation that grew up with computers? Is your household liberal or conservative? Are you employed or unemployed? Have you ever been the victim of a crime or committed a crime? How do your experiences compare with those of others in similar or contrasting circumstances?

Analyze how your culture, race, religion, gender, class, and the like have impacted events in your life and how you might be a part of a larger sociological movement. For example, how have immigration issues affected you? Are you are a child of Norwegian immigrants living in the Midwest or born of Mexican immigrants in the Southwest? Perhaps you are an undocumented worker, or one or both of your parents are. Place yourself and your experiences within the greater historical perspective.

Determine the relevance of your experiences to the time in which you live and vice versa. If you are unemployed, consider whether your unemployment is part of the larger problem of unemployment during an economic downturn. If you grew up in the age of computers, discuss how your parents dealt with the issue of children on the Internet and whether you will raise your children similarly or not.

Use sociological terminology while writing your autobiography. Using sociological language helped California State University sociology professor Alem Kebede's students distinguish their sociological autobiographies from "plain" autobiographies. Student responses to Kebede's project revealed another positive aspect of using sociological language: "unintended therapeutic consequences." Kebede found that using the language of sociology in a sociological autobiography "serves both as a medium of communication and an intellectual instrument of looking at the social world."

Come to an understanding of how the sociological issues you address relate to your present-day condition. Though discussing personal events in your autobiography, the focus remains on the sociological concept you are illustrating, according to British sociologist Adrian Worsfold. For example, the sociological autobiography of a working mother could relate those experiences to the women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s or to the increase in women raising families on their own. A sociological autobiography should make connections between private experiences and public issues.

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