Ann Miller

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Dr. Richard Preston




The deficiency of analysis and interpretation has been expressed as a persistent concern in the use of life history material in anthropology. An explicit focus on its usage as an illustrative, heuristic device in the explanation of the culture concept continues to be emphasized. Subsequent attempts at interpretation highlight a prevalent assumption that views the individual and culture as dichotomous entities. This thesis rejects a dichotomous stance as an underlying assumption in the design of a frame of reference for interpreting the life history of Ruth Ollerhead. Instead, the emphasis shifts into an interpretation which attempts to view culture and the individual simultaneously. In addition, this emphasis highlights a comprehension which leads to bringing the text from unintelligibility to an understanding of the individual qua individual. Therefore, a hermeneutical position operating within a phenomenological perspective is used in providing an orientation for a focus which remains grounded in the textual data and calls for acquiring understanding rather than an explication of the text. Viewing the individual and culture simultaneously within this frame of reference requires that three levels of conceptualization--i.e., the immediate contextual framework of the ethnographic situation, the interplay between the individual and her culture and the larger socio-cultural context--must be known to comprehend fully the contextual meaning of events and experiences described in the life history.

McMaster University Library

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