This course is discontinued

SOS9223 – Understanding families: Theory and Research

Course content

In this PhD course theoretical issues as well as the methodological approaches within present family research will be highlighted and discussed. Prof. Carol Smart from Manchester University will use her own research on personal life and family as illustrations, in particular her present project on donor conception and her previous project on civil partnership as illustrations of issues on relationality, inter-generational relationships, the significance of genes and gene talk, changing family forms and non- heterosexual families. Prof Anne Lise Ellingsæter and Prof Karin Widerberg will comment and discuss the Scandinavian situation regarding these issues and approaches.


PhD students at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography register for the course in StudentWeb

Other interested participants can send an email to katalin.godberg(at) The deadline for registration is *1st October 2013*


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Open for all interested PhD students


The course will be held in room 221, Harriet Holters hus

Tuesday 15.10.13

Presentation of theoretical and methodological approaches

10.15-10.45 Presentation of the course and its participants
10.45- 12.00

“Understanding families”. Introductory lecture by Prof. Carol Smart, followed by comments from Prof Anne Lise Ellingsæter and Karin Widerberg and general discussions

12.00-13.00 Lunch
13.00-15.00 “Methodological approaches to the field”. Prof. Carol Smart will discuss and illustrate the implications of different approaches. A video will be shown and there will be group work.
15.15 – 16.00 Summing up issues raised and issues to bring along for day 2 and 3

Wednesday 16.10.13

Illustrating and applying various approaches

10.15 – 12.00

“Family photographs – from visual images to memories.” Prof Carol Smart

12.00 - 13.00 Lunch
13.00-16.00 “Practicing memory work on the theme”. Prof. Karin Widerberg

Thursday 17.10.13

Final Lectures and discussions of papers to be written

10.15- 12.00 Summing up the issues from previous days. Discussion of the papers to be written.
12.00 -13.00 Lunch
13.00 - 14.00

“Same-sex marriage – the significance of money”. Prof. Carol Smart

14.15 - 15.15 “Family policy and the equalization of parenthood in Norway.” Prof. Anne Lise Ellingsæter
15.15-16.00 Summing up and course evaluation

Further questions regarding the content of the course can be forwarded to Prof. Karin Widerberg at ISS.


It is a 3-day course, and required reading (500 pages), active participation, a presentation (sent in before the start of the course) and a paper as a final examination, is required to attain 6 points:

Each participant is requested to send in a page describing her/his PhD-project (aim, research questions and methodological approaches), one week before the start of the course, that is before 12 o’clock on 8th October 2013. Requested reading is 500 pages from the reading list (see below) where the mandatory reading is marked with a *. Joining the course each participant should bring along a few of her/his family photographs, which will be used as material during the course. Attendance and active participation is requested throughout the course. Examination will be in the form of a written paper on 10-15 pages on a topic agreed upon with Prof. Carol Smart and Prof. Karin Widerberg (in charge of the course) who both will read and comment upon the papers. The deadline for handing in the paper is 15th Desember.


Reading material for the PhD course


Theoretical material

* C. Smart (2007) Personal Life: New Directions in Sociological Thinking, Cambridge: Polity Ch 1 & 2


C. Smart (2011)‘Relationality and Socio-cultural Theories of Family Life’ in R. Jallinoja and E. Widmer (eds) Families and Kinship in Contemporary Europe, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

* B. Misztal (2003) Theories of Social Remembering, Milton Keynes: Open University Press Ch 3

* J. Carsten (2004) After Kinship, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Ch 1 and 7

J. Gillis (1996) A World of their Own Making, Mass: Harvard University Press Introduction and Ch 7

J. Mason (2008) ‘Tangible Affinities and the Real Life Fascination of Kinship’, Sociology 42(1): 29-45

            A L Ellingsæter (2012)’Innledning: Velferdsstatens Familier’ Kap 1 i  A L Ellingsæter   &  K Widerberg(ed) Velferdsstatens Familier. Nye Sosiologiske Perspektiver. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk

           A L Ellingsæter (2012) ‘ Familjepolitikk i Klassesamfunnet’. Kap 5 i A L Ellingsæter &  K Widerberg (ed) Velferdsstatens Familier. Nye Sosiologiske Perspektiver. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk

Methodological material

C. Smart ‘Shifting Horizons: Reflections on qualitative methods’ Feminist Theory, 2009, 10(3): 1-14

*G. Rose (2007) Visual Methodologies, London: Sage Ch 10

            J. Mason (2002) Qualitative Researching, London: Sage Ch 6

            J. Law (2004) After Method, London: Routedge Ch 8

K.Widerberg (2011) ‘Memory Work: Exploring Family Life and Expanding the Scope of Family Research’  Journal of Comparative Family Studies. Volum 42(3): 329-337


Substantive material

C. Smart (2011) ‘Families, Secrets and Memories’, Sociology, 45(4): 539-553

B. Heaphy, C. Smart & A. Einarsdottir, (2013) Same-Sex Marriages: New generations, new relationships, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan Ch 5

J. Brannen (2006) ‘Cultures of intergenerational transmission in four-generation families’, The Sociological Review, 54:133-154

J. Stocks et al (2007) Modern Couples Sharing Money, Sharing Life, Palgrave Macmillan Ch 1

J. Finch and Mason, J. (2000) Passing On: Kinship and inheritance in England, London: Routledge Ch 4 and 7

A-M. Kramer (2011) 'Kinship, affinity and connectedness: Exploring the role of genealogy in personal lives', Sociology 45(3) 379-395


Facts about this course






15-17th October, 2013, 1000-1600 all days.


Autum 2013

Teaching language