Between Social Spaces

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Sida LIU, University of Toronto, Canada
For more than a century, sociologists have imagined society as spaces. By the early 21st century, field theory seems to have become the dominant approach for studying social spaces. Yet Bourdieu’s field theory has a curious blind spot, namely, the relationship between social spaces. This paper takes the Simmelian approach of formal sociology and outlines the basic social forms by which two or more social spaces relate to one another. I argue that social spaces have life histories like individuals and institutions. They evolve in mutually contingent and constitutive ways. Each space has a unique history of its own, yet all life histories of social spaces are shaped by interactions with other spaces over time. In order to study these interactions, the paper examines two dimensions of the relationship between social spaces: (1) heterogeneity; (2) social distance. In terms of heterogeneity, social spaces can be kindred, symbiotic, or estranged. In terms of social distance, they can be linked, overlapping, or nested. These social forms of spatial relations are constituted by the individual and collective actions of a variety of actors, including guardians, brokers, and space travelers. The main objective of the paper is to outline the social forms that structure and delimit the substantive aspects (e.g., power dynamics, patterns of inequality, or modes of production) of spatial thinking in sociology and beyond.