Presents of the Midlands: domestic time, ordinary agency and family life in an English town
2014-11-14T11:48:13Z (GMT) by
Focusing on the everyday lives of middle-class English families in a medium size town situated in the Midlands, this doctoral thesis contributes to anthropological debates on the topics of human agency, time, domesticity, mothering, and kinship. Organized upon the idea that cultural models of time are inextricably linked to understandings of agency (Greenhouse 1996), the thesis links Moore s (2011) post-vitalist theoretical framework and the work of Foucault (1990, 2000) on ethical practices, with Gershon s (2011) critique of neoliberal agency . The concept of ordinary agency is proposed for situating everyday actions as significant actions that contribute to social transformation. Three cultural models of time are identified spontaneity, anticipation and family time and the types of ordinary agencies that they engage are described in three dedicated chapters. The first chapter discusses the theoretical framework of the thesis. The second chapter addresses methodological issues, and discusses the methods that the author developed during her ethnographic fieldwork for looking at people s relationships with time. The third chapter addresses the time mode of spontaneity, presenting ethnographic examples of digital media use at home, and introducing theoretical tools for situating the forms of agency engendered by spontaneity. The fourth chapter looks at the time mode of anticipation in relation to mothering, motherhood and care. This chapter is accompanied by a video component, titled Mum s Cup and situated in the appendix of the thesis. Based on material that the participants filmed in solitude, for a self-interviewing with video task, Mum s Cup is a visual point of departure for theorising the Mother-Multiple ontological position that is described in chapter IV. Alongside providing a visual ethnographic lever for endorsing a theoretical concept, the video project also reflects on the relationship between the researcher and the participants, a relationship that, for various reasons (some related to length limitations), is not fully described in the textual corpus of the thesis. Discussing two types of domestic sociality, the fifth chapter looks at family time and at the forms of agency engendered by the idea and by the experience of having a family-style lifestyle (Strathern 1992), and it draws on, and contributes to, bodies of literature on English kinship. The last chapter addresses the context of the research which is an interdisciplinary project looking at domestic energy consumption ; it situates the position of the author in relation to the domestic sustainability agenda and to debates on interdisciplinarity, and it formulates ideas about possible applications that the anthropological knowledge gained by the author through her research could have in relation to the context that originally framed and facilitated the research.