Declaration of interest

Interest is a vague notion that partially overlaps with ideological bias. We usually understand personal self-interest as ambitions and concerns that might result in financial, political, professional etc. benefits for the individual. Since I have emeritus status and don’t expect to generate any income from my current work, I have no economic interests in the autobiographical research described on this website. Nor am I attached to any political group or party which could promote me to a power position. My only interest is professional, in the sense that the (hopefully) high quality of my work may have additional beneficial consequences for my professional reputation.

Ideological bias

Whereas self-interest has to do with ambitions for the future, ideological bias is the more or less subconscious result of one’s life history, education, social position and experiences. I’m an old man now, with few ambitions for the future, but conversely I have accumulated seven decades of experiences and opinions which undoubtedly influence my present views of the world, my own self, and the value of autobiography and memoir work. Therefore I believe that my (self-perceived) ideological bias is much more important than my self-interest in the usual narrow sense.

On this page I list a number of such biases which I were aware of when I began this work in 2015. The list will probably become more comprehensive as a consequence of my reading of the archival material and my continual uncovering of memories.

Does my class background influence my thinking on autobiography?

I grew up in an urban secular, modern, Swedish lower middle-class family. My mother and grandparents (and their parents and brothers and sisters in turn) were all employed at non-executive levels in the public administration, with no one having any experience from the private sector or the daily life of the manual working class. They didn’t live in luxury, but they had the privilege of a social safety net and secure pension after retirement. “Statens kaka är liten men säker” (‘The cake of the state is small but safe’), they used to say. For me getting a higher education and being employed at the university was a large step upwards on the social — within a decade I went from a lower middle-class background to becoming a member of the narrow educated elite.

How my social (and economic and educational) class background can have influenced my views of the world and my own self, and my views on autobiography is more difficult to say. If anything, I long felt a bit ashamed and guilty over my relatively privileged life and secure life. My turn to extreme left organisations in the late 1960s and my transient embrace of ‘maoism’ was probably fuelled by this feeling of shame and guilt (maybe this was a common attitude among middle-class young men and women at the time?), and I’ved never really felt that my position as a high-salaried professor in a rich and stable country was something I deserved. My research on esoteric topics like the history of ecology, history of immunology, and scientific biography, has always been accompanied by a slight background feeling of bad conscience — as if I were selfishly pursuing my own egotistical appetites instead of doing something more socially and politically ‘useful’, for example to alleviate suffering and save the world, like medical doctors, public health researchers or green activists do.

Similarly, my present interest in my own life-history and, more generally, in academic autobiography as a genre is also slightly tainted by this basic feeling of undeserved privilege. How this shadow of guilt and shame influences my approach and my specific findings is more difficult for me to say, however. Maybe my Facebook friends can help me?

Do I have a gender bias?

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Is my ethnicity and national background important in this context?

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Does my language play a role?

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Does my genetic architecture make me biased in any way?

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Am I biased because of my childhood experiences?

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My education?

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My life-long social experiences, social environment and social interaction?

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My earlier academic/research experiences?

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Other possible sources of bias?

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