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Social Quality in Everyday Life

Changing European Experiences of Employment, Family and Community

Sue Yeandle

In this article the concept of 'social quality' is invoked as a way of exploring the impact, relevance and potential of policy and social structural developments for citizens' everyday lives. As a concept, 'social quality' embraces a range of themes each of which has received extensive sociological attention: social cohesion and solidarity as crucial elements in both citizenship and in social institutions such as family, neighbourhood and workplace; autonomy and empowerment as central to the individual's sense of identity and self-worth; economic security, which underpins everyday life and enables people to engage in everyday activities and to approach their future without fear of poverty; and social inclusion, the involvement of individuals in social, economic and cultural aspects of collective life.

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Islam, IVF and Everyday Life in the Middle East

The Making of Sunni versus Shi'ite Test-Tube Babies

Marcia C. Inhorn

In vitro fertilisation and even newer assisted reproductive technologies are part of everyday life in the contemporary Middle East. There, IVF is practised according to local Islamic norms, which have been reinforced by fatwas from lead- ing religious authorities. As this article will show, ideological differences between dominant Sunni and minority Shi’ite forms of Islam are currently shaping the practices of test-tube baby-making in the Muslim world, particularly regarding the use of third-party gamete donation and new technologies to overcome male infertility. Such divergences have led to gender transformations within infertile marriages in the Muslim Middle East, with potentially profound implications for women’s marital security and family formation.

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Jonathan Bach

Across former East Germany today there are more than two dozen private museums devoted to representing everyday life under socialism. Some are haphazard collections in cramped spaces, others marketable mainstays of their local tourist economy. Historians have criticized them as at best amateurish and, at worst, a trivialization of the GDR's repressive practices. Yet, this article argues how, as a social phenomenon, these museums form an important early phase in postunification efforts by public cultural institutions to incorporate the GDR everyday into working through the past. The article examines the museum's modes of representation and shows how the museums lay claim to authenticity through a tactile, interactive, and informal approach. Despite valid criticisms, the article argues that the museums can be seen as helping overcome, rather than reinforce, the binary of totalitarianism and everyday life as antagonistic frameworks for understanding the socialist past.

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Comics and Everyday Life

From Ennui to Contemplation

Greice Schneider

This paper discusses the recent growing presence of the everyday in comics from different traditions, works where ordinary situations and apparently insignificant events take the place of extraordinary worlds and adventure stories. Drawing predominantly from the French perspective of Everyday Studies (Lefebvre, Blanchot, Perec, De Certeau), the ambiguous dynamics of the everyday will be here studied in relation to the contrasting concepts of boredom and strangeness. This paper addresses not only comics that bring these two attitudes as a theme, but also those which manage to awaken emotional responses in the reader, specifically ennui and contemplation. The aim here is to identify different strategies proper to the language of comics capable of arousing everyday moods in the reading experience, particularly in those cases where the temporal dimension is manipulated, reinforcing a sense of slowness.

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Doing bizness

Migrant smuggling and everyday life in the Maghreb

Line Richter

Drawing on extensive fieldwork among Malian migrants and connection men, this article investigates the sociality of facilitating migrant journeys and illegal border crossings in the Maghreb. Dominant discourses portray smugglers as participating in highly organized networks of unscrupulous people taking advantage of innocent migrants. I counter such narratives by zooming in on West African migrants involved in the facilitation of illegal border crossings. This bizness consists of ensembles of temporary practices and relations embedded in everyday life with linkages to historical and regional practices of brokering and hosting. This perspective invites us to move conceptually from focusing on different (stereo) types of smugglers to considering smuggling practices; to make sense of the phenomenon, we need to pay less attention to fixed social positions and more to the transient social poses adopted by those involved.

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Re-conceptualising Political Alienation

On Spectators, Spectacles and Public Protests

Anthony Lawrence A. Borja

Politics usually takes the form of brawls ranging from the verbal and civilised, to the physical and savage, if not deadly encounters. These public engagements are political spectacles projecting narratives that are attractive to people who share the sentiments made public in these spectacles, and a following of spectators that, in sustaining their spectatorship, keeps the spectacle in its status. I note that spectators are attached and concerned with the narratives (i.e.from the causes and actors involved to the eventual results) behind and projected by such spectacles, and that this attachment in turn defines and sustains their spectatorship. Political alienation is a condition shared by both the apathetic and spectators. However the case of spectators is more complex and merits closer analysis in order to attain an encompassing understanding of political alienation. In this article, I will argue and illustrate that political alienation must be understood as a sustainable process constituted and driven by sustained spectatorship (i.e.sustained relationship between spectators and a political spectacle) made possible by a habitus of disempowerment in everyday life.

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“Stop it, f*ggot!”

Producing East European Geosexual Backwardness in the Drop-In Centre for Male Sex Workers in Berlin

Victor Trofimov

In this article I examine the negotiations of national and sexual belonging of a Romanian gay sex worker in Berlin in the contemporary geosexual context defined by binarism between ‘modern’, ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ Western Europe and its ‘traditionalist’ and ‘homophobic’ East European Other. I analyse how, by means of an overt display of his own homosexuality, the sex worker symbolically distances himself from his native country. By extension, this reinforces the image of the East and its inhabitants as inherently homophobic and, therefore, backwards. The article is based on ethnographic research in the drop-in centre for male sex workers in Berlin, an environment that reveals how deeply contemporary geosexual differences are anchored in the cultural logic of everyday life.

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Conflicts in Children’s Everyday Lives

Fresh Perspectives on Protracted Crisis in Lebanon

Erik van Ommering

Based on child-oriented, ethnographic research in Lebanese school communities, this article offers an alternative approach to understanding the multitude of conflicts affecting Lebanon. It highlights how young Lebanese engage with corollaries of conflict in their everyday lives and simultaneously points to sources of security and resilience that children employ to confront adverse conditions. These resources, which are located in homes, schools, the environment and the ways in which young people engage their surroundings, all face unique conflict-induced pressures and dynamics. Approaching children in their generational and political contexts can help us identify and strengthen their capacities to confront, rather than reinforce, adverse conditions. In turn, this may offer a more sustainable way of promoting peace in conflict-affected societies.

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Remembering the Leu

Encounters with Money and Memory in Post-communist, Accession-era Romania

Alyssa Grossman

This article approaches money as the object of a particular type of remembrance work occurring in present-day, post-communist Bucharest. Since the 1989 revolution, the Romanian leu has changed numerous times in appearance and value. Piecing together observations from over a decade of fieldwork in Bucharest, I evaluate everyday behaviours and conversations surrounding these changes, and examine how the leu has been implicated in subjective, highly charged encounters closely bound to the workings of memory. The leu's fluctuating terminology, along with its material and imagerial variations over time have triggered poignant associations and recollections that often remain unspoken, embedded in unseen realms of the mind. By emphasising the leu's role as an everyday artefact and its connections to processes of 'communicative' memory, I point to the present-day climate in Bucharest as one where perceptions of the leu's multiple forms and manifestations reveal strong ambivalences towards current accession-era values, as well as deep uncertainties about Romania's 'European' future.

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Constructing the Socialist Worker

Gender, Identity and Work under State Socialism in Braşov, Romania

Jill Massino

Utilising socialist legislation, propaganda and oral history interviews, this article analyses how women’s identities and roles – as well as gender relations – were reformulated as a result of women’s participation in paid labour in socialist Romania. Although some women regarded work as burdensome and unsatisfying, others found it intellectually fulfilling, personally rewarding and, in certain respects, empowering. For example, work improved women’s economic position and offered them an array of social services, which, although inadequate in a number of ways, were welcomed by many women. Moreover, work increased women’s physical and social mobility, which in turn provided them with greater freedom in directing their own lives and in choosing a partner. Finally, the experience of being harassed by male co-workers and of combining work outside the home with domestic responsibilities motivated some women to rethink their status both within the workplace and the family, and to renegotiate their relationships with male colleagues and partners. Although women never achieved full equality in socialist Romania, by creating the conditions for women’s full-time engagement in the workforce, state socialism decisively shaped the course of women’s lives, their self-identities and their conceptions of gender roles, often in positive ways.