Novakovic, Yvonne (2016) Evaluating the use of life history approaches in financial ethics research. In: 15th Qualitative Methods Conference, 3rd-5th May 2016, Glasgow, UK. (Unpublished)

Evaluating the use of life history approaches in financial ethics research
The view that the study of finance proceeds from numerical conceptualisations is dominant in finance research and is also discernible in the small domain of financial ethics research. This means that financial ethics as a potential academic field often seems irrelevant to the very real and justifiable concerns people have about financial institutions and financial practices. These concerns become more salient in the context of the comprehensive financialisation of everyday life. So what would it mean to use life history genres and approaches to research in this field? This is the overarching question I consider in this paper by drawing on my experience of conducting an exploratory study into the lived experience of someone working in a compliance role in financial services. I knew in advance he would be critical of the ethical basis on which he was expected to perform his role and therefore access to ‘rich’ data was practically assured. But how far did a life history approach also contribute to ideas about human nature; to the socially constructed nature of financial systems; to the relationship between financial institutions and the individuals within it; to the way in which individuals negotiate social systems; and to how they mediate external influences and the balance of power between the systematic, the institutional and the personal? I consider how (and whether) life history can offer a meaningful, and ethical, engagement with these questions, particularly when the participant is emotionally, and politically, invested in telling their story.

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