Doing Transitions in the Life Course – Discourses, Practices, Institutions, Subjects

From 17th to 19th February the second international conference of the research training group Doing Transitions was held in Tübingen. This conference was an event “inbetween”: It documented the passage from the first cohort of phd-students, presenting findings from their phd projects, and the second cohort, who have started only six weeks ago, presenting their projects in a poster session. Thereby, it also represented an intermediate resume of the process of developing and applying a reflexive perspective for the research on transitions in the life course. Inspired by key notes and comments of discussant speakers, these considerations will be developed further. The conference was characterised by a highly productive atmosphere among early career researchers and senior scientists and was regarded as a big success by all participants and guests.

Key findings of Doing Transitions were presented and discussed in six thematic panels:

  • Doing transitions differently – everyday life and extraordinary transition practices: this panel included the works of Julia Prescher, Kerstin Rinnert and Anna Wanka commented by Tobias Boll from the University of Mainz focussing on the subtle processes of doing difference in research practice.
  • Biographical articulation in transition: under this title the presentations of Jessica Lütgens and Andrea Pohling were discussed by Tina Spies (Protestant University of Applied Sciences, Darmstadt) who stressed the relationship between transitions, biographies and processes of articulation (following Stuart Hall).
  • Doing transitions through welfare organisations has been the theme bringing together findings of the studies of Bianca Lenz, Heidi Hirschfeld and Noreen Eberle on how being addressed by and using measures of youth welfare, labour market policies or adult education is interrelated with individual biographies. These contributions were discussed by Eva Nadai (University of Applied Sciences of North Western Switzerland, Basel).
  • Embodied transitions and bodies in transitions: under this heading Janne Krumbügel and Deborah Nägler presented some findings of their studies. In her discussant note, Imke Schmincke from the University of Munich emphasised the relation between bodies, interaction, and social change.
  • Doing transitions in, through and of space was the title of a panel including presentations by Tabea Freutel and Helena Müller and a discussant note by Anamaria Depner (University of Heidelberg). One key aspect of the discussions were how transition practices shape and structure the social spaces in which they evolve.
  • The role of organisations as collective subjects in doing transitions assembled contributions of Eva Heinrich and Nils Klevermann which were commented by Inga Truschkat from the University of Hildesheim. Here a point of discussion was how organisations both contribute to and at the same time are subjectivated in processes of doing transitions.
Panel Discussion with (from left to right): A. Wanka, I. Truschkat, R. Settersten and K. Riach

The thematic panels were framed by four keynote papers: Rick Settersten (Oregon State University) opened the conference with an inspiring talk on the relatedness of lives and the role of relationships in life course transitions. This included not only the role of linkages but also of unlinking lives in cases of leaving and loss. Kathleen Riach (Monash University Melbourne) related to these reflections with a paper on the bodily politics of ageing transitions within organizational life, in which she pointed to interpellation as inbuilt in our bodily experiences – and the ways in which these are either acknowledged or ignored. Heinz-Hermann Krüger, University of Halle, in his talk reminded of the challenges (but also the fruitfulness) of longitudinal approaches for transition research, presenting findings from a study on students from elite schools and their transitions into university and employment. Laura Bernardi from the University of Lausanne held the last keynote on Relative time in life course research, in which she engaged with “multidirectional, elastic and telescopic understandings of time”.

The inspiring reflections and debates from these different formats have been extremely valuable for developing “Doing Transitions” further in terms of relational perspectives in analysing transitions in the life course. In particular, a future challenge will be to study how transitions are constituted as intersected and interwoven with interpersonal relationships, temporalities and different materialities – like artefacts, welfare regulations, embodiment and spacing. All in all, the conference confirmed the need and the fruitfulness to theorise life course transitions through analysing processes of constitution.

Participants of the International Conference, Tübingen 2020

Presentations / Keynotes:

Presentations Panel 1 / Doing transitions differently – everyday life and extraordinary transition practice:

Presentations Panel 2 / Biographical articulation in transition:

Presentations Panel 3 / Doing transitions through welfare regulation:

Presentations Panel 4 / Embodied transitions – bodies in transition:

Presentations Panel 5 / Doing transitions in, through and of space:

Book series of the research training group

The book series „Reflexive Übergangsforschung – Doing Transitions“ (Reflexive Transition Research – Doing Transitions) published by Barbara Budrich Publishing aims to provide a platform for theoretical and methodological reflections of transitions in the life course. In a first phase, the publications of this series will come from the members of the research training group themselves and include both edited volumes and PhD theses (monographies). With increasing national and international visibility the series will also be open for publications from beyond the research training group that share a reflexive approach towards analysing transitions in the life course. The series starts in 2020 with an edited volume on theoretical and methodological foundations of reflexive transition research, as well as the first monographies of PhD theses. For 2021, two more edited volumes will be addressing the discursive, institutional and individual formation of transitions and the relationship between transitions and the different life stages across the life course.

2. cohort begins

On 1stof January 2020 the second PhD cohort, comprising 19 junior researchers, has  started its work in the research training group Doing Transitions. At the universities of Frankfurt and Tübingen each, six PhDs are employed as researchers, while four in Frankfurt and three in Tuebingen are associated researchers (see also team). The group is complemented by the associated postdoctoral researcher Anna Wanka. 

From 8th to 10th of January 2020 the involved professors and the new cohort met for a joint kick-off event in the Stift Bad Urach. The meeting served to get to know each other in terms of research as well as personally, and to introduce the research and training programme.

The official transition from cohort 1 to cohort 2 will be facilitated in the course of the international conference ‚Doing Transitions in the Life Course‘, February 17th to 19th  2020 at the University of Tübingen. In the future, several alumni events are planned to take place.

Farewell to the 1st cohort of PhD candidates

By December 2019, the work contracts of the (majority of) the 1stcohort of ‚Doing Transitions‘ PhD candidates have come to an end. From November 20th to November 22nd, the last meeting, bringing together all members of the research training group  from Franbkfurt and Tuebingen, took place in Heidelberg. The research training group expresses its gratefulness for everybody’s contributions to the research and training programme and wishes all the best fort he completion of the PhD theses and future careers – within or outside academia. 

We are looking forward to meet the ‚former‘ PhD researchers as alumni in the course of the international conference ‚Doing Transitions in the Life Course‘, February 17th to 19th 2020, in Tübingen.