Configuring generations: cross-disciplinary perspectives

Fink, Janet and Gabb, Jacqui (2014). Configuring generations: cross-disciplinary perspectives. Families, Relationships and Societies, 3(3) pp. 459–463.



Approaches to conceptualising ‘generation’, the meanings invested in the idea and the ways in which these feature in the shaping of identities, relationships and practices, have long been the focus of policy making and academic research. From such work, theorising generation can be understood as clustered around three areas: kinship generations, socio-historical generations and collective generations (Burnett, 2010; Plummer, 2010). These clusters often speak to different disciplinary interests. For example, oral history, human geography and neuroscience research draw on the idea of kinship generations; the social sciences and social history draw on socio-historical generations; and political science and feminist studies focus on collective generations (Stoilova, 2013). However, despite the extent of this theorising and notwithstanding the increasing theoretical and policy interest in the temporal and processual more generally (Thomson, 2011), the concept of ‘generation’ remains ‘slippery’ (Newman, 2012). As Biggs (2007) notes, there remains much work to be done in integrating the range of analytical insights that abound in different disciplinary arenas. Compelling arguments have been made similarly for greater multidimensionality in theorised studies of generations (Brannen, 2004; Burnett, 2010; Plummer, 2010). The first aim of this Open Space collection is, then, to bring together some of the ways in which different disciplines conceptualise ‘generation’ and thereby illustrate their cross-cutting, competing and complementary dimensions.

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