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Session Overview
RN03_06a_H: Places and Changes – Glocalisation in Europe from a Biographical Perspective
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Howard H Davis, Bangor University
Location: HA.4.11
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 4.

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From Cosmopolitan Solidarity Practices to Glocal Identity Conflicts. The Case of International Volunteers for Development in Tanzania and Madagascar

Augusto Gamuzza

University of Catania, Italy

The present evolution of geopolitical situation of western societies seems to indicate that the space for solidarity discourse into global public agenda is narrowing, underlining the inescapable necessity to be emphatic only with who is similar to us: the difference between who is inside and who is outside is becoming a real socio-political descriptor of our societies. This consideration is challenged by an opposite weltanschauung that recognizes and emphasizes with the otherness beyond the nation-state and its administrative boundaries and social rules, unveiling the relevance of a cosmopolitan solidarity to global issues and social change [Beck 2013]. When this form of solidarity is translated into biographies and historic/personal trajectories, it implies a ‘conflicting’ outcome upon the subject identity and social collocation into “private homeland – ojczyzna prywatna” [Ossowski 1984: 37-40] - with regards to local communities.

In order to empirically surround these issues, the aim of this work is to present the main theoretical and empirical results of a fieldwork, started in 2015, oriented to understand, from an insider perspective, the cosmopolitan solidarity practices and the related identity conflicts of subjects involved in NGO international volunteering. The exploratory case presents an extensive study upon the NGO CO.P.E. Cooperazione Paesi emergenti. The paper compares results from two work packages, covering a period of activity from 2004 to 2017, designed for the integrate analysis of international NGO volunteers for development in Tanzania and Madagascar: 1) a biographical research stream dealing with the in depth analysis of the tranches de vie of Managers and coordinator of NGO projects; 2) a semi-structured interview campaign administered to volunteers and international civil service units in Tanzania and Madagascar.

Biography, place and local civil society

Robin Mann, David Dallimore

Bangor University, United Kingdom

Biography is a mirror of the relationship between place and change. Economic transformations, population movements as well as social and cultural changes are embedded in the biographical narratives of people whose lives they have altered. As part of WISERD Civil Society research programme, we have gathered 20 biographical narrative interviews with people who live in two contrasting but geographically close localities in North Wales, UK. One site is a large, former industrial village, where recent generations have had to come to terms with post-industrial transformations and the decline of key local institutions. The other is a more rural village which appears to enjoy higher levels of participation in traditional as well as more contemporary lifestyle activities, including international ’twinning’ arrangements. Biographical narratives in the first setting convey a strong sense of nostalgia, in which the struggles of the present are lived through the memory of the proud past. The second locality narratives carry less weight of the past, and have more energy and optimism. In our research project we argue that, beside class differences, which are to some extent represented by differential access to material resources and networks, a more profound difference lies in how communities perceive and actively build their ‘place narrative’; how they manage their identities in order to attract new opportunities and new people or guard their memory, by sequestering and affirming the old sentiments.

European childhood publics: making biographical research with younger children possible

Sevasti-Melissa Nolas, Christos Varvantakis, Vinnarasan Aruldoss

University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Younger children’s biographies remain an under-theorised area of research. We argue that there is a curious paucity of research on younger children that explicitly engages with biographical theory’s focus on temporality and its more explicit political imperative on linking personal lives with public issues. The established paradigm of life history research and the emerging genre of children’s biographies of famous ‘change makers’ favour adult informants/figures who may recollect their childhoods but do not serve to bring contemporary children’s experiences out of the private sphere into public life. As such, children remain a subaltern group within biographical research much as they are anyway in many European societies where public and scientific discourses continue to position children in ways that emphasize their vulnerabilities at the expense of their capacities for agency and participation. The paper problematizes why this may be so when it is known that key dimensions of biography such as identity, memory, narrative and reflective capacity are formed from birth to age 6. In order to bring children into biographical research, and therefore into public life, we report on findings from the ERC funded Connectors Study, a three-city comparative ethnography which explores the relationship between childhood and public drawing on biographical theories. Using case histories from a sub-sample of children living in two European cities (Athens and London), the paper presents a methodological exploration of biographical research with younger children. The analysis focuses on two key political events with resonance in each country (the refugee crisis and Brexit) and explores how these were engaged with biographically by the children.

„I was born in four different countries” A case study of the biographical narration in the frame of the family.

Wojciech Polec

Warsaw University of Life Sciences SGGW, Poland

In my presentation, I want to focus on the process of creation of the autobiography for descendant generations in the family and not for a broader public or in the frames of the scientific project. I analyze the changing social roles during the life cycle of the person, who has the experience of migration, but also the changes in the political, economic and social system. I focus on the hierarchy of values, experiences and meaning the grandfather want to pass to his grandchildren in the future.

The title of my work is a citation from the biographical narration of my father-in-low, which he prepared with my help for his grandchildren. It is connected with the fact, that he is born in Lida region on the territory which till the II World War was a part of Poland, after war it was a part of USSR, and now is a part of Belarus. In the time of his birth that territory was under German occupation. The ambiguity of the time and place has affected his whole life. He was soviet citizen, but in the age of 17, he moved from USSR to Poland and was settled on the territory which before the war was a part of Germany.

I will try to show how the biographical narration is construct when its goal is to create the message for the future generations.

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