Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Life history as an anthropological technique is rarely used due to an assumed difficulty with analysis; however, a consideration of life history narratives provides some insight into individual understanding of experience, which often becomes lost in abstract generalized accounts of culture. Anthropologists derive personal meaning and cultural meaning from the same observed behaviour and it is because the distinction between individual and culture is blurred in a life history that analysis becomes a problem. Following Radin's method of inductive analysis, this thesis is an elaboration of one individual's understanding of experience; an explication of inherent meaning, both personal and cultural, as expressed in the narrative of a Cree woman from Rupert House, James Bay, Quebec.
The intent of the narrator is to provide some insight into competent social interaction within a Cree context. The implication to be drawn from the narrative is that Cree social competence is the ability to maintain an acceptable balance between individual autonomy and social responsibility which allows for effective interaction in one's social, mental, and physical environment. The ideals of reticence, self-reliance, emotional control and noninterference in the affairs of others mediate individual action and social responsibility.
Through a series of vignettes drawn from her own experience the narrator provides specific examples of the relationship between ideal and action, autonomy and social responsibility. Various aspects of social competence are explored, as well as differing levels of competence. The narrative provides a clear and complete account of one individual's development of social competence.
Preston, Sarah, "Let the Past Go: A Life History" (1982). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5450.
McMaster University Library