Between biography and autobiography: exploring the official history in organizations

Deby Babis (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ariel University, Ariel, Israel) (Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, Jerusalem, Israel)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Publication date: 19 July 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The official history of an organization is usually found on the organization’s website and in brochures. The purpose of this paper is to explore the narrative of an institution’s official history, the autobiography, as compared to the biography constructed by researchers.

Design/methodology/approach

A case study was conducted on the Organization of Latin American Immigrants in Israel (OLEI), covering the entire history of the organization. Based on a longitudinal, holistic and qualitative perspective, the research methodology combines data collected from interviews, archival and digital sources. The access to these data enables researchers to explore some of the reasons and circumstance behind the construction of the official history.

Findings

The analysis of the data revealed a significant gap between the autobiography and the biography in four episodes. The common thread running through them was the creation of a narrative that reinforces and emphasizes the growth and stability of the organization, through the use of strategies such as forgetting, erasing and remythologizing. This narrative was found to have been re-constructed following a period of instability.

Originality/value

The originality of this study relies on the use of the terminology of autobiography and biography for the exploration of the official history of an organization. The innovative research methodology applied in this paper, which compares an organization’s biography with its autobiography, enables the exploration of different dimensions and dynamics, emphasizing the value of understanding autobiography by constructing a biography.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thank leaders and members of OLEI (Organizacion Latinoamericana en Israel) for sharing their experiences and Professor Luis Roniger, Dr Batia Siebzehner, Dr Roni Mash, Dr Nadav Gabay and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Citation

Babis, D. (2019), "Between biography and autobiography: exploring the official history in organizations", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 160-175. https://doi.org/10.1108/QROM-09-2018-1686

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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