The Timescapes of Personal Lives and Relationships: The Temporal Turn in Social Enquiry
School of Sociology and Social Policy University of Leeds Leeds, UK
The value of taking a dynamic or "processual" approach to understanding family lives and intimate relationships is increasingly recognised; temporal family research that is qualitatively led has the potential to uncover new insights into the immediacy of real lives as they unfold and the interaction of human agency with wider processes of social change. This paper will explore the theme of temporality in family and relationship research that is being developed in the UK within the ESRC funded Timescapes study. Timescapes is a scaled-up qualitative longitudinal study of personal relationships and identities and how these unfold through the life course. The seven projects that make up the study span the life course, from childhood, though parenthood and grandparent, to the oldest generation. The methods of enquiry reflect a deeper conceptual enterprise, that of establishing the authenticity of personal lives and human agency, and the significance of the temporal as a key dimension of social experience. This paper will explore varied ways of theorising the temporal and how these might be harnessed to enrich our understanding of families and intimate lives. In particular it will explore three timescapes that are at the heart of the study: the interlinking of biography, history and generations through the life course.