Family lives and relational living: taking account of otherness

Gabb, Jacqui (2011). Family lives and relational living: taking account of otherness. Sociological Research Online, 16(4), article no. 10.



Contemporary research has shown that families are constituted through everyday practices of intimacy with affinities being fashioned around the structuring principles of openness and reciprocity alongside or superseding traditional ties of obligation and responsibility. Paradoxically in many instances powerful differences and inequalities among intimates remain intransigent, undermining claims on the democratisation of intimacy. In this article I want to examine how people make sense of difference and significant otherness in family lives, focusing attention on embedded practices that span across interpersonal, human–object, natural–cultural boundaries. I focus on three examples; these are relations between humans and animals, parents and children, people and objects. These relations are structured through species, gendered, generational and subject–object differences, but these categorical distinctions do not set apart the self and other instead they demonstrate how otherness is part of everyday relational living. Thus, to put personal relationships and families in context, I contend that we need to reframe the analytical lens around an ethics of otherness.

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