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Conference Papers Year : 2017

The Structure of Urban Daily Living


How do people carry out their activities of daily living in 21st-century Western urban societies? That is, how do they cope with food and eating, mobility and moving, health and caring, jobs and working, housing and inhabiting, education and learning? You might think, these questions should warm any sociologist’s heart and mind. Everyone has to meet their basic needs, and every day. The sociologist would thus engage in two of her fav hobbies: illuminating what has become of human life in a complex and changing social world, revealing the deep hidden social forces behind mundane things of the everyday that laypeople take for granted. Yet, there are scant sociological approaches to activities of daily living (hereinafter referred to as ADL). These issues have traditionally been tackled in psychology of motivation (Maslow, 1987 [1954]), development economics (Jolly, 1976), and medicine (Katz et al., 1963). In this paper, I focus on eating and moving. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in Goutte d’Or, a mixed neighborhood in Paris, I argue that urban daily living is a matter of structure. This means, urban daily living is a structure made of constituent elements (i.e., observable knowledge, emotions, beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors), is shaped by elements of social structure (at the urban and national scales), and is differentiated across social categories (which are proper to urban and national stratification systems). I develop a framework for sociological research on ADL, and provide information on data collection and analysis. I demonstrate that the poor multiplies foods and places: they get multiple foods by moving to multiple places. The working class partitions foods and places: they move to many places across working-class Paris and suburbs as means to get the foods they want. The middle class anchors foods and places: they want to get local foods in local places; yet, they cannot find everything that suit them in Goutte d’Or, so that they also end up moving to nearby middle-class places. I assess the context-boundedness and generalizability of these findings, and discuss how they speak to strands of scholarship in sociology, the social sciences, and health sciences, as well as to normative and policy issues. (Introduction)


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hal-03399708 , version 1 (24-10-2021)



Coline Ferrant. The Structure of Urban Daily Living: Eating and Moving in a Paris Mixed Neighborhood. Urban/Community Workshop - Northwestern University, Mar 2017, Northwestern University, Sociology Department, Evanston, IL, United States. ⟨hal-03399708⟩
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