New article by Johanna Söderström, EURIAS fellow 2017-2018


'Life diagrams: a methodological and analytical tool for accessing life histories'

Johana Söderström

Qualitative Research, first Published January 8, 2019  [online first] 




The article argues for the utility of life diagrams as a methodological and analytical tool across various life history projects. Using research on post-war political mobilization among former combatants (in Colombia, Namibia and the United States), the article demonstrates how a life diagram can modify the interview and become a useful analytical tool. During the interview the diagram helps both the research participant and the interviewer to compare different events, weigh various experiences, and ensure that all periods of the life are covered even if the interview is not done chronologically. During the analysis, the diagram offers a contrast with the transcript of the interview, and the shape of the life diagram can be compared across interviews in search of similar types. This visual turn can help address issues of empowerment, through promoting the research participants’ own interpretation of their lives.



empowerment, graphic elicitation, life diagrams, life history interviews, life trajectories and transitions, temporal position, visual turn


Author biography

Johanna Söderström is a researcher at the Department of Government, Uppsala University. Her research focuses on the political reintegration of former combatants and political behavior in post-war contexts, and on democratic challenges related to peacebuilding and statebuilding. She has worked extensively with both focus groups and life history interviews.