Understanding the Articulation between Digital and Physical Mobilities, Spatial Embeddedness and Social Relations through the Lens of Children Growing up with Two ‘Homes’

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Laura MERLA, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
I will present the main theoretical foundations of the ongoing ERC Starting Grant project « MobileKids: children in multi-local, post-separation families”, which seeks to understand the lives of children aged between 10 and 15 in the context of shared custody arrangements.

The project investigates in particular the diversity of children’s experience of multi-local family life in Brussels, Torino and Lyon, and seeks to identify their specific needs, through children’s own accounts of their experiences. This means determining how, and under what circumstances, children appropriate their multi-local lives and develop new forms of habitus that incorporate mobility, virtual connectedness and the capacity to appropriate them and act upon them, which is in turn particularly valuable in societies where mobility (social, geographical, professional, etc.) is increasingly becoming a new stratifying factor (Glick Schiller and Salazar, 2013).

I will argue that children growing up between – and across – two households represent a key entry for developing empirical and theoretical knowledge on the inter-relations between mobility (including virtual), spatial embeddedness, and social relations. The micro-level everyday practices of those children indeed opens up a window for a better understanding of the characteristics, and articulation of:

  1. the spatialisation of ‘family’, which questions the relations between « life spaces » (multilocal residentiality) and « lived space » (or the intimate network of someone’s real and imaginary places and territories) (di Méo, 2012), and brings forward the importance of space/time articulations, in a context where “choreographies of existence” (Duchêne-Lacroix, 2010) are produced through the management and coordination of intermittent absence and co-presence within, and across households;
  2. virtual mobility and virtual connectedness, which allow for the development of new repertoires of connectedness and co-presence that transcend space and time, and interrogate the role that ICT play in the management and structuring of daily social relations.