Biogrāfiskā pieeja biogrāfiskā pārrāvuma individuālo un sociālo aspektu analīzē

Translated title of the contribution: The Biographical Approach in the Analysis of the Individual and Social Aspects of Biographical Disruption

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


A sociological analysis of the individual and social aspects of biographical disruption has been performed in this dissertation. The concept of biographical disruption describes the influence of a significant, sudden event on the course of an individual’s life that cardinally changes its direction and plans. These significant changes that affect an individual are experienced both objectively and interpreted subjectively. In this dissertation, the concept of biographical disruption is examined as a traumatic process that brings significant changes to the course of the individual’s life and his or her biography as well as his or her perception and interpretation of the course of his or her life. The term “biographical disruption” was coined in 1982 by British sociologist Michael Bury. In analysing illnesses as an experience of biographical disruption, Bury used Anthony Giddens’ concept of “critical situation”, which Giddens had applied to disruptions of a social nature, assuming that significant events in a person’s biography had the same sort of influence (Giddens 1979). In addition to the concept of biographical disruption, the author of the dissertation also analyses the theoretical statements of several other authors regarding the influence of significant, sudden events on individual biographies, thereby searching for and characterising similar manifestations of the processes, nevertheless focusing on their differing contents and meanings. Strauss analysed biographical disruption as a process brought about by a “turning point” (Strauss 1959). This idea is close to the concept of “epiphanies” in narratives as formulated by Norman Denzin – moments of existential crisis that influence a person’s life at its very foundation and also structure a biographical study (Denzin 1989). Also analysed are David Mandelbaum’s views, in which turning points are attributed to any period in an individual’s life when significant changes take place, including historical turning points, as well as the term “critical moments” used by Rachel Thomson in studies of disruption moments in the lives of young people (Thomson et al. 2007) and the concepts of “career break” and “social career” introduced by Robin Humphrey in biography studies (Humphrey 1993). The central concept of the dissertation is biographical disruption. Biographical disruption is analysed as having been brought about by various causes. One of these causes is an inherited heightened risk of serious chronic illness – in this case, breast cancer or ovarian cancer – which the individual has received as the result of genetic inheritance, that is, being a member of a specific family and being biologically related to a carrier of this gene in previous generations. The second cause for biographical disruption analysed in this dissertation is profound social changes due to historical events, namely, the Second World War and the Soviet occupation. For both types of biographical disruption – both of which are unique and individual in their specific expressions – also their social aspects are analysed, because the course of an individual’s life that includes a biographical disruption takes place within a specific social time and social space, with the individual participating in social relationships both on a personal and institutional level. The biographical approach – a methodology that consists of a qualitative set of methods – has been used for the dissertation’s sociological study of the individual and social aspects of biographical disruption. The methodology is inductive; it leads from data collection in the empirical study to a theoretical analysis and the drafting of conclusions. The method used in this dissertation within the framework of the biographical approach is a narrative expressed in the form of language. In her study of biographical disruption, the author of the dissertation has used a combination of positive achievements from several biographical approaches – realistic and narrative – respecting the features of both approaches mentioned and taking into account that a life story is an interpretation of reality that contains the past and present as real life and real experience. Jeja-Pekka Roos (Roos 2003) calls this a neorealistic approach, in which biographies are considered essential, practice-oriented narratives. The data used for the dissertation’s empirical study of serious chronic illness or heightened risk thereof as a source of biographical disruption were obtained by the author during her participation in the project “Creation of a new interdisciplinary research team to investigate breast cancer and to increase the efficacy of therapy and the patient’s quality of life” (agreement No. 2009/0230/1DP/ Empirical data from a longitudinal study conducted by the National Oral History project at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia were used in the study of biographical disruption caused by radical social changes. This project, titled Māja, began in 1996 and took place over the course of several years; it used life story interviews as well as interviewee personal documents (with permission from respondents) as a source of information. The study analyses two methods of overcoming biographical disruption: biographical work and social support. In addition to the narrative analysis, interview comments from researchers involved in the empirical study as well as personal document data (with permission from respondents) and statistical data were used to characterise the context.
Translated title of the contributionThe Biographical Approach in the Analysis of the Individual and Social Aspects of Biographical Disruption
Original languageLatvian
  • Rungule, Ritma, First/Primary/Lead supervisor
Place of PublicationRiga
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • sociology
  • Subsection – Sociology
  • Doctoral Thesis
  • biographical disruption
  • overcoming of biographical disruption
  • social support
  • biographical work

Field of Science*

  • 5.4 Sociology

Publication Type*

  • 4. Doctoral Thesis


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