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  • Author or Editor: Vanessa May x
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This article contributes to a reconceptualisation of the boundaries of sociological attention regarding where family is enacted. Despite being aware of the cultural contingency of the distinction that is drawn between the public and private spheres, family scholars in the Global North tend to study families as bounded units with an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside’, and as spatially centred in the home. I argue that there is a need to systematically explore how mundane interactions and activities in public settings are woven into family life. Furthermore, drawing from research into family life in cities, I make the case for conceptualising public spaces as aspects of and even as characters in family life, and ask how people realise their family capacities in these. I propose that keeping these different facets of family life in view both analytically and empirically could lead to a radical shake-up of sociological thinking about family.

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This chapter, which is based on a secondary analysis of qualitative interviews with 46 grandparents, focuses on ‘normative talk’ about grandparenting. We have identified two main cultural norms of grandparenting, namely that grandparents should ‘not interfere’ and ‘be there’. We shall also argue that these ‘grandparenting norms’ conflict with others that are significant for contemporary grandparents, specifically norms about good parenting, and about the moral value of independence and self determination. Such conflicts are likely to produce inherent paradoxes in the meaning and experience of contemporary grandparenting, which we argue are best understood through the conceptual lens of ambivalence. The chapter concludes with a discussion of some of the limitations of the data and the analysis, and with suggestions for the development of further work in this area.

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In 2012, David Morgan gave a talk titled ‘Neighbours, neighbouring and acquaintanceship: some further thoughts’ at the University of Turku, Finland. In this article we engage in dialogue with Morgan’s talk, as well as his 2009 book Acquaintances, in particular the observations he made about the simultaneous closeness and distance that characterises neighbouring relationships. We suggest that using the metaphors of elasticity and stickiness instead allows us to explore neighbouring relationships as more than inhabiting a space between intimates and strangers (), but as textured and messy everyday relationalities. We consider also how the ‘stickiness’ of this relationship as well as the significance of its ‘elasticity’ are likely to have been heightened during COVID-19 lockdowns, which have altered the usual configurations of intimate and stranger relationships. In doing so, our aim is to contribute further to Morgan’s theorising of the nature of neighbouring as a specific form of acquaintanceship.

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This study examined how lone mothers rationalise their work during non-standard hours (e.g., evenings and weekends), which they perceive as problematic in terms of child wellbeing, and thereby as violating the culturally shared moral order of ‘good’ motherhood. The data comprise interviews with 16 Finnish lone mothers, analysed as accounts, with a special focus on their linguistic features. The mothers displayed morally responsible motherhood through: (1) excusing work during non-standard hours as an external demand; (2) appealing to an inability to act according to good mothering ideals; (3) using adaptive strategies to protect child wellbeing; and (4) challenging the idea of risk. Our findings indicate that the moral terrain lone mothers must navigate is shaped by the ways in which their family situation contravenes powerful ideologies around good mothering, while their efforts to resist the ensuing stigma are constrained by the need to engage in work during non-standard hours.

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