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Title: Documenti e reperti umani come figurazioni
Authors: Hughes, Kahryn
Goodwin, John
Hughes, Jason
First Published: 1-Aug-2016
Publisher: Universita Degli Studi di Firenze, Dipartmento di Scienze Politiche E Sociali, Laboratorio Sulle Transformazioni Sociali
Citation: CAMBIO: Rivista sulle trasformazioni sociali - Journal on Social Transformations,, 2016, Anno VI, Numero 11/Giugno 2016 (Anno VI, Numero 11/Giugno 2016), pp. 123-137
Abstract: In this paper, we explore Norbert Elias’s sociological practice as a model of analysing society in long-term perspective. We centrally argue that embedded in Elias’s work is an approach to social analysis in which documentary and other cultural artefacts are treated as part and parcel of human ‘figurations’. Elias’s approach presents a series of questions concerning the status of documentary/cultural artefacts as sources of evidence. Principal among such issues is the question of whether medieval manners texts; literature and art works; and, by extension, latter-day equivalents – television, film, social media, blogs, etc. - can be treated and approached as ‘reliable informants’ on the social universe. We suggest that, using conventional methodological standards, serious questions are raised concerning the extent to which documentary and cultural artefacts can be used as sources of evidence for social/historical analysis. In doing so, we identify how this approach to assessing the worth of particular sources of evidence against, what we might loosely call, ‘standards of truth’ is problematic in key respects. We argue that while such criteria have their place, they ultimately lead towards a series of questions which are profoundly at odds with processual/relational thinking. As an alternative, drawing upon recent debates about ‘human documents’ and using Elias’s work as a case in point, we explore an approach to diachronic documentary analysis in which both discursive form(s) and content(s) become simultaneously ‘objects’ and ‘subjects’ of investigation. In doing so, we propose a shift from ‘methodology’ to ‘modes of analysis’ which follow from viewing social reality in a particular kind of way. In this way, we consider how the value of cultural/documentary artefacts has historically been used to support particular assumptions about what constitutes ‘evidence’, and often promulgates an unnecessary separation of qualitative from quantitative empirical materials. This paper will consider how the evidence from such cultural/ document artefacts is not simply ‘content’, but that the artefacts constitute empirical materials that can tell us about the unfolding relationships, human interdependencies - and therefore the broader social conditions - under which such materials ‘came to be’.
DOI Link: 10.13128/cambio-18788
ISSN: 2239-1118
Version: Publisher Version
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: © 2016 Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY-4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Description: Traduzione di Alessio Berti e Tommaso Frangioni
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Sociology

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