My post-doctoral research project (2010-2013) “Different Styles of Relatedness” funded by Finnish Cultural Foundation combined narrative analysis to the systematic mapping of personal relationships , investigating relational lives, configurations of personal relationships, their quality and dynamics at the crossroads of the personal and the social. I analyzed the relational organization and styles of 37 Finnish women and men within and across different social categories. Although my sample included a variety of life situations, most of my interviewees lived in urban and suburbian settings and with others they identified as ‘family’. In this white and heterosexual sample, ‘the family’ as a setting mediated the style of relatedness. Outside it a whole variety of different styles from rather dis-embedded ‘cosmopolitanism’ to tight group membership was be found. ‘The family’ mediatied people lives, but some people, in my sample, some partnered academic women, maintained alternative and more inclusive styles of relatedness. Those living without a partner, on the other hand, had to excercise strong agency in creating and maintaining close relations or in some unfortunate cases they lived very lonely and socially isolatede lives. My article ‘The intimate couple, family and the relational organization of close relationships’ (Sociology, 2012) is about these relational dynamics.
My dissertation research (2010) ‘The Relational Self, the Social Bond and the Dynamics of Personal Relationships. A Sociological Analysis‘ was published as a book consisting of four empirical articles and a summary part (140 pages) that includes revisit the classic contributions to the questions of self and of the social bond, and presents an empirically grounded theoretical argument of relationality. My analysis proposes a notion of self more relational and fluid than the category of individual. Rather individuality and being bonded were analysed as varying phases of same relational processes that take place in personal relationships. Individualism both in sociology and in society is not able to grasp the embedded realities of selves. Nor can we explain significant embeddings of selves from structure. The analysis reflects on the sociological categories and poses questions of their ontological status in the world.
Dissertation includes the following sub-studies:
1) ‘Biographical disruption, the wounded self and the reconfiguration of significant others’ (published in 2008)
2) ‘Rejected autonomy: estranged family bonds and alternative life paths of grown children’ (translated from Finnish into English)
3) ‘Sharing the same fate. The social bond between the self and fellow sufferers in the context of peer support.’ (Published in 2009).
4) ‘Partnership and the relational dynamics of intimate relationships’ (submitted)
My dissertation was supervised by Prof. Emerita Riitta Jallinoja and Ph.D. Anna-Maija Castrén and funded by the Academy of Finland and Emil Aaltonen Foundation. See the summary of my thesis here.
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