Searching For Pearls

John Goodwin

In this paper, I outline my ongoing research into the life and work of the forgotten sociologist Pearl Jephcott (1900–1980) with three objectives in mind. First, I consider the practice ‘doing’ of biographical research into Pearl’s life and work as well as briefly discuss how researching ‘sociological biographies’ intersects with ‘genealogical’ research. I do this to give a clear overview of the biographical research process and offer some insights into the realities/practicalities of the ‘doing’ of biographical research. This is important to ‘throw light on our practices’ (p. 167) as mentioned by Moore, Salter, Stanley, and Tamboukou [2016, The archive project archival research in the social sciences. London: Routledge] so that those who want to engage in this approach can learn directly from those who do biographical research. Second, using her notebooks, I briefly outline Jephcott’s sociological/biographical research practice. Pearl was a biographical research practitioner well before this approach became ‘fashionable’ and ahead of the ‘biographical turn’. Finally, the paper concludes with the sharing the lessons that I, and others, have and can learn from Pearl’s work, and I reflect a little on how researching Pearl’s biography has changed my sociological practice.*

*For some reason a few errors appear in the published version. Frustrating but it is what it is.

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