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This paper has two purposes. First, I offer a reading of interpretive biography (Denzin, 1989a) as an alternative method for understanding how individual lives are…
This paper has two purposes. First, I offer a reading of interpretive biography (Denzin, 1989a) as an alternative method for understanding how individual lives are rendered meaningful in postmodern communication processes. Second, given the importance of many rock performers as cultural heroes, I present an interpretive biography of Pete Townshend, chief songwriter and most visible member of the classic rock band the Who. This method of inquiry is grounded in the more general tradition of interpretive interactionism (Denzin, 1989b, 1990a) and has its roots in C. Wright Mills's (1959) concept of the sociological imagination. Its guiding question is this: How is the postmodern self (or stated more accurately, selves) created within and sustained by the mass media? I argue that as postmodern cultural symbols, Townshend and the band (however ambiguously) mirror a collective search for identity on the part of audiences and society-at-large.