Presidential address by Professor Lynn Jamieson at the BSA Annual Conference 2017 - Recovering the Social: Personal Troubles and Public Issues
British sociology has a rich tradition of studying personal life, particularly families but also friendships and sexual relationships often illuminating intersections of history and biography, of public issues and private troubles. Core theoretical issues to the discipline about the self and responsibility for others are the stuff of personal life. The topic area has provided powerful accounts of how intersecting inequalities become folded into people’s views and conduct. New developments in the sociology of emotions potentially further strengthen the theoretical resources. Yet, like all specialist areas, the sociology of families, relationships and personal life is often peripheral to sociologist working on other topic. The literature on personal life offers its own stories of social change that are not always taken up in bigger picture accounts. I make the case for the gains from knowing something of the story so far, keeping interchange going between agendas in this topic area and wider social theory. I also argue for incorporating a stronger focus on personal relationships into new studies of pressing global issues and social change. In particular I make the case for acknowledging the agentic ‘world making’ aspect of personal life when crafting research on the cluster of profound global challenges around sustainability and climate change, and in analysis of the socio-political shifts underpinning voting for Brexit and Trump.
Professor Lynn Jamieson was elected as the President of the BSA in 2014. Professor Jamieson is Professor of Sociology, Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh. She has previously been a Trustee on the BSA Council and Chair of the Heads and Professors of Sociology group. Professor Jamieson, who has Masters and PhD degrees from Edinburgh, does much of her current work at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, which she co-directs. She is involved in the longitudinal research for Growing Up in Scotland and Twenty+ Futures, looking at the views of young people on issues including recession, climate change, security threats and parenting. She has also worked on a study of people living alone at ages usually associated with living with a partner or children. Her portfolio of research includes work on European identity and on the effectiveness of legislation governing the use of evidence in Scottish sexual offences trials, and also a number of pieces of oral history. She is best known for her writing on intimacy, particularly the book Intimacy: Personal Relationships in Modern Societies (1998).