Session 14

SMUSI_14- The Individual and the City: Urban Life Stories

How do cities affect the lives of their inhabitants? This question has been relevant for socio- logical research since the publication of Georg Simmel’s essay “The Metropolis and Mental Life” (1903). The question how cities influence life courses and life stories has not lost its relevance for the social sciences, on the contrary. Cities continue to grow, and generally, urbanization is still on the rise. Processes such as gentrification, densification, segregation and precarization may have direct outcomes on the life courses and life stories of their inhabitants. However, it would be too one-sided to ask only how cities determine people. The relation can be better captured as the mutual constitution of individuals and city, city life and city society. Thus, cities are shaped by those who inhabit them with their biographies and their everyday interactions, by political and social activism, and by those who govern and administer city life. This session welcomes papers which deal with the interrelations and mutual constitution of individuals and cities. It speaks to social scientists from different disciplines who are interested in the general guiding question of how urban contexts influence life courses and life stories and how cities have been formed and changed in the past and the present by their inhabitants. Contributions should be based on empirical research and might discuss theoretical challenges and practical aspects of studying the interconnection between individuals and cities. Possible questions include, but are not limited to, the following: (a) How does the city affect life histories and life stories? (b) How are urban contexts co-constituted by inhabitants’ biographies and interactions between them? (c) How can we explore a city’s history by analyzing biographies and life stories? (d) Which (combinations of) methods are suitable for research on the interrelations between individuals and cities? (e) What role is played in biographies by ‘urban materialities’ and geographical features? (f) How can we compare living in urban areas and living in rural areas on the basis of biographies? (g) Are there differences in the relations between individuals and cities in different parts of the world?