University of Missouri

The point of departure for my work is the premise that no system of social rules is robust enough to understand its everyday application. Areas of research informed by this are aging and the life course, health and illness, human service organizations, constructions of family, institutional identity, and narrative analysis. The goal is to make visible the assemblages of meaning that rationalization erases. Centered on the comparative ethnography of human service settings, the current focus is on novelty and pattern in troubles/problems reflexivity.

Jaber F. Gubrium

Jaber F. Gubrium

Professor and Chair

312B Middlebush Hall
(573) 882-8331

Research Program

Jay works empirically at the border of ethnography and narrative analysis, combining them in new ways to deal with the perennial problems of linking observational data with transcripts of stories, speech, and other narrative material.

This has been applied in a long-standing program of research on the social organization of care and treatment in human service institutions. Gubrium's research on the everyday practice of caregiving in nursing homes, originally described in his monograph Living and Dying at Murray Manor (1975/97), presents the lived details of care from the perspectives of the residents, the staff, and family members. In his ethnography Oldtimers and Alzheimer’s (1986), special attention has been paid to caregiving and the cognitively impaired in the context of broader cultural understandings, in particular how the Alzheimer's disease movement transformed the meaning of senility and the identities concerned.

The program of research has extended to institutional practices across the life course. Ethnographies of several institutional settings have set the basis for comparison. Earlier research on interpretive practices in a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed children has been followed by ethnographic and narrative studies of clinical practices in physical rehabilitation, a psychiatric hospital, family counseling, and self-help groups for home caregivers. The program centers on narrative events and strategic storytelling in everyday life, especially as these unfold in institutional context.

Viewing the “macroscopic” as a resource for local application and pragmatist in orientation, the program is broadly conceived as a sociology of description.  Representative monographs are Caretakers: Treating Emotionally Disturbed Children (1979), Describing Care: Image and Practice in Rehabilitation (1982), Oldtimers and Alzheimer’s: The Descriptive Organization of Senility (1986), Out of Control: Family Therapy and Domestic Disorder (1992), and Speaking of Life: Horizons of Meaning for Nursing Home Residents (1993). For subjugated knowledge and the institutional politics of description, see “The Descriptive Tyranny of Forms” (1989).

With an international group of scholars, Gubrium currently is working on theorizing the structure and transformation of the human service relationship. The goal is to reimagine the relationship, not in particular service sectors, but in terms of what humane service provision could be in practice for all concerned across the board. For example, see Reimagining the Human Service Relationship, 2016. Gubrium continues to research the everyday practice of documentation in human service settings.

Gubrium is founding and current editor of the Journal of Aging Studies (


Recent Publications & Presentations

“Animating Interview Narratives.” 2016. Chapter in Qualitative Research, edited by David Silverman. London: Sage.

Jaber F. Gubrium, Tone Alm Andreassen, and Per Koren Solvang (eds). 2016. Reimagining the Human Service Relationship. New York: Columbia University Press.

“From the Iron Cage to Everyday Life.” Chapter in Reimagining the Human Service Relationship. New York: Columbia University Press.

“Narrative Practice and the Active Interview.”  Forthcoming.  Chapter in Qualitative Data Analysis, edited by David Silverman.  London: Sage.

Keynote Lecture.  “Stories in Action.”  Presented at the North American Network in Aging Studies conference, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, May 20, 2015.

“Analyzing Novelty and Pattern in Institutional Life Narratives.”  Forthcoming.  In International Handbook of Narrative and Life History.  Edited by Ivor Goodson et al.  Routledge.

“Benchmarking the End of Life in Long-Term Care.”  2015.  In Communication at the End of Life.  Edited by Jon Nussbaum & Howard Giles.  Peter Lang Publishing.

Plenary Lecture.  “From Text to  Field in Narrative Inquiry.”  June 3, 2014.  Conference on Narrative Research Methods.  Aarhus University, Denmark

Invited Lecture.  “Narrative Ethnography.”  May 29, 2014.  Conference on Narrative Criminology.  University of Oslo.

Plenary Lecture.  “Narrative-Based Research in Institutional Settings.”  May 21, 2014.  Research Workshop.  Oslo & Akerhus University College of Applied Sciences.

Invited Lecture.  “Consensus in Interdisciplinary Team Research.”  May 15, 2014.  Health, Care and Welfare Program.  Oslo & Akerhus University College of Applied Sciences.

Jaber F. Gubrium & Margaretha Järvinen (eds.)  2014.  Turning Troubles into Problems: Clientization in Human Services.  London: Routledge. Link

Jaber F. Gubrium & James A. Holstein. 2014. "Analytic Inspiration in Ethnographic Fieldwork." In HANDBOOK OF QUALITATIVE DATA ANALYSIS, edited by Uwe Flick. London: Sage.

Invited Lecture. “Watersheds in Narrative Analysis.” University of Oslo. September 25, 2012.

Invited Lecture. “Asking where (not what) is social policy?” Oslo & Akerhus University College of Applied Sciences, August 29, 2012.

Academic year opening lecture: "Working Against Established Concepts." Oslo & Akerhus University College of Applied Sciences. August 24, 2012.

Jaber F. Gubrium & James A. Holstein. 2012. "Theoretical Validity and Empirical Utility of a Constructionist Analytics." THE SOCIOLOGICAL QUARTERLY, vol 53, pp. 341-359.

"Narrative Practice and the Transformation of Interview Subjectivity." 2012. In Handbook of Interview Research, 2nd Edition, edited by Jaber F. Gubrium, James A. Holstein, Amir Marvasti, and Karyn McKinney. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

James A. Holstein & Jaber F. Gubrium (eds). 2012. Varieties of Narrative Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Keynote Lecture. "Stories and the Need for Ethnographic Sensibility." Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies. September 9, 2010. Oslo

Jaber F. Gubrium. 2010. "Another Turn to Narrative Practice" Narrative Inquiry 20: 2, pp. 387-391.

Jaber F. Gubrium (with James A. Holstein). Forthcoming. "Don't Argue with the Members" The American Sociologist

Invited Lecture. "Thinking of Interviews as Narrative Events." FAFO Research Foundation, Oslo, Norway. June 7, 2010

Invited Lecture. "The Significance of Narrative Events." Institute of Gerontology, Jönköping University, Sweden, March 29, 2010.

James A. Holstein & Jaber F. Gubrium. Forthcoming. ”Animating the Active Interview.” In Qualitative Research: Theory, Method, and Practice (3rd edition), edited by David Silverman. London: Sage.

Jaber F. Gubrium & James A. Holstein. Forthcoming. “The Constructionist Analytics of Interpretive Practice.” In Handbook of Qualitative Research, 4th edition, edited by Normal K. Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Jaber F. Gubrium. 2011. “Narrative Events and Biographical Construction in Old Age.” Pp.39-50 in Storying Later Life: Issues, Investigations, and Interventions in Narrative Gerontology, edited by Gary Kenyon, Ernst Bohlmeijer, and William Randall. New York: Oxford University Press.

Keynote Address. "Narrative Events and Strategic Memory." ISA/CFR Families & Memories Conference, June 15 - 17, 2009, Oslo, Norway.

Jaber F. Gubrium. 2009. “How Murray Manor Became an Ethnography.” In Ethnographies Revisited: Constructing Theory in the Field, edited by Antony Puddephatt, William Shaffir & Steven W. Kleinknecht. New York: Routledge.

Jaber F. Gubrium & James A. Holstein. 2009. “The Everyday Work and Auspices of Authenticity.” In Authenticity in Culture, Self, and Society, edited by Phillip Vannini & J. Patrick Williams. United Kingdom: Ashgate.

Jaber F. Gubrium & James A. Holstein. 2009. Analyzing Narrative Reality. Thousands Oaks: Sage.

Gubrium, Jaber F. and James A. Holstein. 2008. “Narrative Ethnography"In Handbook of Emergent Methods , edited by Sharlene Hesse-Biber and Patricia Leavy. New York: Guilford Publications.

Holstein, James and Jaber F. Gubrium. 2008. Handbook of Constructionist Research New York: Guilford

“Constructionist Perspectives on the Life Course” . 2007. (with J. Holstein).

Sociology Compass 1: 1-18."Metaphors Shifts in Stroke Recovery” (with C. Boylstein, M. Rittman, and R. Hinojosa,). Health Communication 21(3), pp. 1-9.

Rejoinder (pp. 569-70) to Charles Briggs’s 2007 article “Anthropology, Interviewing, and Communicability in Contemporary Society” in Current Anthropology 48(4) 551-580.

Gubrium, Jaber F. 2007. “Urban Ethnography of the 1920s Working Girl." Gender, Work and Organization 14(3): 232-58.

Holstein, James A. and Jaber F. Gubrium. 2008.“Constructionist Impulses in Ethnographic Fieldwork.” Handbook of Constructionist Research. New York: Guilford Publications.

Gubrium, Jaber F. and James A. Holstein. 2006. Couples, Kids, and Family Life. NewYork: Oxford University Press.

Gubrium, Jaber F. 2005. "Narrative Environments and Social Problems." Social Problems 52(4): 525-528.

Brekhus, Wayne, John Galliher, and Jaber F. Gubrium. 2005. "The Need for Thin Description." Qualitative Inquiry 11(6): 861-879.

Seale, Clive, Giampietro Gobo, Jaber F. Gubrium, and David Silverman (eds.). 2004.Qualitative Research Practice. London: Sage

Gubrium, Jaber F. and James A. Holstein (eds.). 2003. Ways of Aging. Boston: Blackwell.

Gubrium, Jaber F., Maude Rittman, Mary Ellen Young, Christine Williams & Craig Boylstein. 2003. “Benchmarking as Everyday FunctionalAssessment in Stroke Recovery.” Journal of Gerontology58B:S203-S211.

Gubrium, Jaber F. and James A. Holstein. 2002. "The Active Subject in QualitativeGerontology." Pp. 154-171 in Qualitative Gerontology, edited by Graham D.Rowles and Nancy Schoenberg. New York: Springer.

Gubrium, Jaber F. and James A. Holstein (eds.). 2002. Handbook of Interview Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Holstein, James A. and Jaber F. Gubrium. 2000. The Self We Live By: Narrative Identity in a Postmodern World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gubrium, Jaber F. 2000. "Narrative Practice and the Inner Worlds of the Alzheimer'sDisease Experience." Pp. 181- 203 in Concepts of Alzheimer Disease, edited by Peter J. Whitehouse, Konrad Maurer, and Jesse F. Ballenger. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.