9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 The Role of Gender in the Democratisation Process at European, National and Local Levels Building II, C4.01

Gender, locality and social capital. Studying diversity and (trans)formation of social capital across individual life course

Main stream research recognizes social capital generally as a positive outcome of sociability in a community or society level. In addition capacity to gain economic benefits through social network connections has been stressed. However, quite limited attention has been paid to understand diversity and unequal potentials of social capital at individual level. This paper and a larger research project behind it, contributes to repair this gap. I intend to analyze conflicting affects of social connections in relation to socioeconomic disadvantages. This paper draws from my doctoral dissertation study exploring diversity, (trans)formation and capacity of social capital by investigating actor?s practices and life course trajectories in one geographically limited rural locality in central Finland. I consider that actor's social capital may open - or close - access to various networks. The volume of social capital equals to the extent and variation of resources, which can be mobilized though different network relations. Theoretical point of view refers to the approach of Pierre Bourdieu, and to ongoing discussions in women's studies taken place since 1990s. Considerable number of scholars have stressed that bourdieusian analysis is useful for feminist studies because it provides a possibility to combine class analysis and cultural studies in a way, which pays attention to individual experience.

My empirical analysis exploits firstly survey data collected in research locality. It measures accumulation and diversity of economic, cultural and social capital possessed by different age groups and provides a three dimensional base for local inequality (or class) structure. Secondly life course interviews with relatively low-educated mothers in their 50s enable to analyze how class and intersecting divisions like gender, age and region of living are framing women's agency. I am asking: How women have managed such individual transitions as returning to paid work after several years of child rearing at home? How they have coped with societal and local transitions, like the collapse of symbolic value of hands-on experience compared to formal education and qualifications? And above all: what are the potentials and contradictions of different types of social connections and social capital in their coping?