Jennifer Mason spoke about: sensations, atmosphere and resemblances: 'tuning in' differently to families and relationships.
Sociology asks the awkward questions about what we take for granted. But it often misses the elements of life and living – the sheer viscerality of life. Good literature can remind us of this - for example Barbara Kingsolver’s novel the Poisonwood Bible captures much of the sensations that makes us human. Why don’t social scientists engage more with the passions and sensations of relationships?
Could we be more attuned with social science to the significance of atmosphere, visceral experiences – the sensory? How can we be more attuned and reflective on: sensation, atmosphere and family resemblance as three examples
Sensation: Senses are underplayed in relationships research, even though we are very aware of their presence. Smells, sounds, atmosphere. Our senses make and create our relationships. Children give particular examples of this, but it is not just confined to them. Senses are part of adult’s way of experiencing the world, but we need to be more attuned to it.
Atmosphere: Exploring data from the Mass Observation project, one account of a family holiday revealed how the narrator had powerful memories of sensations - of being on holiday and experience dirt, foreboding or fear, through her childhood that she felt contributed to her adulthood. These revealed how atmosphere is not abstract from relationships, but is part of it and helps create relationships.
Family Resemblance: something that we all have experiences and feelings about. It presents itself in many ways, often as a force or flow that is magical and ineffable.
The examples highlighted how being attuned to sensory impressions within research can highlight areas that we weren’t looking for or expecting to see. We need the sensibility and willingness to hear and see.
This does present challenges for data, and for publication, but if we don’t look in this way, we are missing half of what makes for human relationships and real life is experienced.
The conference drew to a close with reflections from Graham Allan on his experience of the three days and with delegates feelings about what they had learned and wished to pursue more in their own collaborations and in 2016.
You can read some of these thoughts on the twitter hashtag #CRFR2013.