28 - 31 August 2013
Torino, Italy

RN03 – Biographical Perspectives on European Societies

Maggie O’Neill maggie.oneill@durham.ac.uk Durham University, UK

The 11th ESA conference “Crisis, Critique and Change” will take place in the University of Turin, August 28th-31st, 2013. The overarching conference theme highlights financial, social and political crisis linked to financial debt, the crisis of the Eurozone and the austerity measures impacting upon all social citizens. The critique and resistance to the current crisis as well as analysis of the transformations taking place in social, political, cultural and psychic spaces, in families, organizations, institutions, structures and processes is captured well by Biographical Sociology. Biographical, narrative methods have a long history of helping us to better understand crisis, especially in the memories of older generations. Biographical Perspectives on European Societies also enable us to write the ‘biography of the current crisis’ through our research with individual and collective life stories and in the process we can explore the societal aspects of the crisis reflected in the biographical narratives, transformations, memories and identities.

The conference organizing team wants to foster an understanding of the crisis and the dual role of critique in interpreting and affecting changes. They state that European sociology has to rely on (1) rediscovering its subject matter as being more than a technical order, as a social world that has a history and a place, and want to see (2) a broad-ranging debate on consequent conceptual and empirical questions. Biographical Sociology can contribute much to understanding the current crisis not only in the context of past crisis but also theoretically, methodologically and in the application of Biographical methods we have much to offer to debates on ‘Crisis, Critique and Change’. Papers are invited on the following themes.


  • 01RN03 European identities
    Chair: Dirk Schubotz

    Papers are invited that; examine the biographical experiences of citizens in European civil society in current time; offer understandings of European societies in time and place through biographical research that also incorporates consciousness and cultural memory. Is the idea of Europe and European Identities more than a potential or ‘mental space’? Can we still talk of European identities?

  • 02bRN03
  • 02RN03 Biographical Competence
    Chair: Wolfram Fischer

    How do citizens ‘make out ‘in times of crisis? What do we understand by ’Biographical Competence’ especially in the context of Jerome Bruner’s statement that “we constantly construct and reconstruct a self to meet the needs of the situations we encounter, and we do so with the guidance of our memories of the past and our hopes and fears of the future” (Bruner, 2003, p.210).

  • del02RN03 Biographical Competence 2
    Wolfram Fischer, Session Chair, wfischer@uni-kassel.de Universityof Kassel, Germany Maggie O’Neill, Chairof RSN3, maggie.o’neill@durham.ac.uk Durham University, UK

    Parallel session onBiographical Competence

  • PosterRN03 Poster Session on the general theme of Biographical perspectives on European Societies: Crisis, Critique and Change or specific themes.
  • 03RN03 Biographical methods and their uses in policy and practice
    Chair: Lyudmila Nurse

    Papers are invited that examine the applications of biographical methods particularly in relation to policy relevant research and outcomes. What are the experiences of embedding narrative driven practices and auto/biographical knowledge within institutional and other policy-relevant contexts?

  • del03RN03 Arts based biographical research
    Chairs: Maggie O’Neill & Brian Roberts

    Papers are invited that examine how turbulent times, both current and in the past, be visualized, performed and critiqued through Arts Based, Biographical and Performative Research. What might sensory, visual and poetic approaches offer to Biographical Sociology and its application and what role does the biographical imagination have in understanding crisis, critique and change?

  • 04RN03 Biographies of Work, Organisations and New Social Movements
    Chair: Maggie O’Neill <maggie.o’neill@durham.ac.uk>, Durham University

    Papers are invited that explore the Biographies of work, organisations and new social movements in Europe framed as a geographic and social space structured by both opportunities and challenges

  • 05RN03 Biography, time & memory
    Chairs: Kaja Kaźmierska & Wojciech Połeć

    Problems of memory, consciousness and cultural memories related both to individual and collective dimensions of biography remain important issues in modern society. Papers presented in this session may explore any aspect of biography-time-memory interrelations. Contributions are invited from field research and secondary analysis of biographical data focusing on the notions of time, memory, and “local knowledge”.

  • 06RN03 Biographical research on the Mediterranean periphery
    Chair: Robert Miller

    There has always been an active interaction between Europe and Islam, which may be entering a new phase with the recent events associated with the Arab Spring. Furthermore, the period since the end of the Second World War has seen successive waves to migration into Europe, leading to the presence of North Africa and the Near and Middle East in Europe. Papers are invited on these themes.

  • 07RN03 Biography, Time and Memory 2
    Chair: Kaja Kazmierska
  • 08RN03 Biographical Perspectives on European Societies (open)
    chair: Hannah King, Durham University
  • del09RN03 Special session with four invited speakers on: Biographical Analysis Master Class.

Joint Sessions

  • 03JS07Biographical Approach to the Studies of Culture

    Joint session with RN07 – Sociology of Culture

    Chairs: David Inglis & Lyudmila Nurse

    This session invites applications both from sociology of culture and biographical perspectives on European Societies. The focus of the papers should be on how culture is revealed, reflected upon and analysed in biographical narratives especially in relation to cultural memories, music, food, faith and cultural studies which deploy biographical (autobiographical) methods. How might biographical methods contribute to the development of cultural theories and the sociology of culture and how they can enrich each other?

Thank you very much to all participants for making esa torino an outstanding conference.