Family life in urban public spaces: Stretching the boundaries of sociological attention

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This paper contributes to a reconceptualization of the boundaries of sociological attention regarding where family is enacted. Despite being aware of the cultural contingency of the distinction that is drawn between the public and private spheres, family scholars in the Global North tend to study families as bounded units with an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside’, and as spatially centred in the home. I argue that there is a need to systematically explore how mundane interactions and activities in public settings are woven into family life. Furthermore, drawing from research into family life in cities, I make the case for conceptualising public spaces as aspects of and even as characters in family life, which leads to the question of how people realise their family capacities in public spaces. I propose that keeping these different facets of family life simultaneously in view, both analytically and empirically, could lead to a radical shake-up of sociological thinking about family.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFamilies, Relationships and Societies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Nov 2022


  • Family life in public
  • sociology of attention
  • public/private divide
  • family studies
  • urban studies


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