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Indicators of Social Quality

Outcomes of the European Scientific Network

Laurent J.G. van der Maesen and Alan C. Walker

In October 2001, the Network Indicators of Social Quality started the process of creating social quality indicators. This project of the European Foundation on Social Quality was supported by the European Commission (DG Research) under Framework Programme 5 (van der Maesen et al. 2000). The Network consisted of representatives of universities from 14 partner countries and two European NGOs. Over its forty-two-month life the Network held four meetings. Three plenary meetings were organised with all assistants thanks to the financial support by the Dutch Scientific Foundation (NWO). Also through the creation of unique national reference groups on social quality, the Network has engaged more than a hundred scientists and policy makers in its work. The project was completed in April 2005. The intriguing question was how to theoretically legitimise the choice of social quality indicators compared to the indicators constructed in the context of 'quality of life' approaches, as developed for example by ZUMA of the University of Mannheim (Noll 2000; Berger-Schmit et al. 2000) and the European Foundation on the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions in Dublin (Fahey et al. 2002).

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The articles in this European Journal of Social Quality have resulted from a European Network Project on Indicators of Social Quality, carried out between 2001 and 2005 and supported by the Fifth Framework Programme by DG Research of the European Commission and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The network was coordinated by the European Foundation on Social Quality. The full national reports, on which these articles are based, as well as the Final Report of this project by Dr. Laurent van der Maesen, Prof. Alan Walker and Drs Margo Keizer, can be downloaded from www.socialquality.eu.

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Elder care in the new Russia

The changing face of compassionate social security

Melissa L. Caldwell

Changing emigration and co-residence patterns in the post-Soviet period have left many elderly Russians living alone or without caretakers in close proximity. In addition, Russia's transition from state socialism to neoliberal capitalism has encouraged private welfare groups, often funded and staffed by foreigners, to assume increased responsibility for providing social security to elderly people. Consequently, notions of compassion are undergoing transformation in Russia, and the types of people who provide care are also changing dramatically as caregivers are more likely to be strangers, and especially foreigners, rather than family members. This article examines social security arrangements among Russia's elderly, with particular emphasis on the emergence of transnational caregiving relationships, and how these caregiving arrangements differ from global care networks reported elsewhere.

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From Cutting to Fading

A Relational Perspective on Marriage Exchange and Sociality in Rural Gambia

Tone Sommerfelt

Based on 21 months of field research on the northern bank of the Gambia River, this study deals with ceremonial exchange and sociality among rural Wolof speakers. In exploring the procurement and distribution of bridal trousseaus, I examine the process of exchange that shapes and limits these potentially endless affinal networks and analyze the social forms that arise from these complex sets of transfers. It is argued that redistributions of objects and money do not establish definite boundaries around units based on categorical exclusion and inclusion, but rather gradual distinctions of social proximity. In effect, I question the appropriateness of the concept of the 'cutting' of networks in this West African setting, proposing instead that 'fading' paints a clearer picture of the particular ways in which affinal networks are limited and relationships are rendered recognizable.

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Sociality Revisited

Setting a New Agenda

Nicholas J. Long and Henrietta L. Moore

It is time for a revitalized theory of human sociality. This theory recognizes that humans are always embedded in a dynamic matrix of relations with human, non-human, and inhuman others, but combines this recognition with attention to the distinctive capacities of human subjects. It thus builds on recent theories of actor-networks and affect, whilst going beyond their limitations.

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Humans, Plants, and Networks

A Critical Review

Laura Calvet-Mir and Matthieu Salpeteur

In recent years, Social Network Analysis (SNA) has increasingly been applied to the study of complex human-plant relations. This quantitative approach has ennabled a better understanding of (1) how social networks help explain agrobiodiversity management, and (2) how social relations influence the transmission of local ecological knowledge (LEK) related to plants. In this paper, we critically review the most recent works pertaining to these two lines of research. First, our results show that this fast-developing literature proposes new insights on local agrobiodiversity management mechanisms, as well as on the ways seed exchange systems are articulated around other social relationships, such as kinship. Second, current works show that inter-individual connections affect LEK transmission, the position of individuals in networks being related to the LEK they hold. We conclude by stressing the importance of combining this method with comprehensive approaches and longitudinal data collection to develop deeper insights into human-plant relations.

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Digital Activism, Physical Activism

Malta’s Front Harsien ODZ

Michael Briguglio

This article analyzes the interaction between the digital (online) and physical (offline) activism of Front Harsien ODZ, a Maltese environmental movement organization. It looks into how Front activists perceive these forms of activism and verifies how important each form is to the organization. Consequently, the research presented herein is operationalized through interviews with Front activists and through participant observation from an insider’s point of view. This article concludes that activists within Front Harsien ODZ feel that they are part of a social network. The organization’s recruitment, mobilization and activism techniques are at once digital and physical. Most Front activists were already part of preexisting social networks before joining the Front, and the new Front network made good use of Malta’s political opportunity structures, including the Zonqor controversy; Malta’s small size; and the country’s vibrant media landscape.

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Migration Studies in Bulgaria

Scope, Experiences and Developments

Magdalena Elchinova

The article overviews the current state of migration studies in Bulgaria. It is argued that their deficiencies stem from the fact that they are nationally embedded, contingent on ongoing public and political discourses, almost exclusively limited to the sociological, psychological and cultural dimensions of migration, and largely operating with the concepts of community, ethnicity and identity, despite the increasing share of ethnographic descriptions of good quality in the field. The further development of migration studies in Bulgaria will depend on the elaboration of a more complex and systematic analytical framework. A shift from community and ethnicity to gender, kinship, social networks and other explanatory categories is needed. It is also necessary to see the variety of forms of commonality and interaction between migrants in order to see migration as a dynamic phenomenon. Finally, it is crucial to develop an interdisciplinary theoretical framework that would best fit the complex nature of migration.

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Claire Wallace

Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) open up the possibility of new forms of relationship and engagement, which form part of the sociality of modern society, leading some to characterize this as a transition to an "information society", a "network society", or a "third industrial revolution". This has implications for Social Quality, especially in terms of social cohesion, social inclusion and social empowerment. Drawing upon recent research we find that ICTs have added new dimensions to social life in ways that go beyond the original formulations of the digital divide. Conversely, Social Quality can also add important insights into our understanding of the relationship between society and technology. The article argues that discussions of Social Quality should take these dimensions into account.

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The Enigma of Mobility

Reflections on the Arab Revolutions

Frank Uekoetter

This article makes a first attempt at outlining the place of the ongoing arab revolution in modern history, with special attention to its significance to mobility studies. taking issue with readings that emphasize the roots of the revolt in islam or the arab world, it stresses the economic background of the grievance, and specifically the elusive hope for social mobility in the countries' youth. it also highlights the crucial role of networking activities, both face-to- face and online, in creating the momentum that led to toppling of powerful regimes in Egypt and tunisia. The article seeks to demonstrate how mobility studies can highlight the peculiar challenges that both countries are currently facing. By way of conclusion, it shows how the case at hand forces us to think more about the mind of mobility, and more broadly about the ambitions and theoretical promises that the field of mobility studies should embrace.