The central goal of Research Group LIFE is to get to know how old and new forms of inequality and solidarity are (re)produced in a global society that is experiencing ever-faster change, and to understand their impacts on individuals’ biographical pathways, lifestyles and daily lives.
The research we do at LIFE also serves to monitor public policies designed to address a range of contemporary social challenges, analysing how public regulation shapes practices and is shaped by the practices of a variety of individual and collective social actors that are formally or informally organised and act at and in various times and spheres of life: family, education, occupational, associative, personal, emotional, health and well-being, leisure, mobilities, online, and so on.
The theoretical and methodological approaches developed at LIFE are plural and diverse: even though sociology is the predominant discipline among our researchers, it is articulated with others, such as demography, anthropology, history, political science, education sciences and social psychology, in research teams that are marked by their interdisciplinarity. We combine macro and micro social perspectives and quantitative and qualitative methodologies, and we look at social realities at the local, national, European and transnational scales, from the points of view of both their current and their historical configurations.
With a transversal focus on the deep-reaching transformations that have recently taken place in individuals’ life paths, LIFE’s research covers four main areas, all of which cross different life stages, transition regimes and social spheres:
1) Childhood, youth and family and relational life: the social production of childhoods and of relationships between and with children; transitions from childhood to youth; youth identities and cultures; education, training and learning; academic experiences, vocational choices and transitions to the labour market; forms of youth consumption and leisure; the pluralisation of family, formats and forms of motherhood and fatherhood; ways of reconciling family and work; gender inequalities in paid and unpaid work; families, poverty and the reproduction of inequalities; inter and intragenerational solidarities and inequalities; global mobilities and transnational families; education, youth, gender and family policies; social networks and forms of association; personal relationships, emotions and forms of affection between humans and between humans and animals.
2) Fertility, ageing, health and well-being: the evolution of the birth rate and reproductive intentions; demographic ageing, care systems and the Welfare State; ageing and the pension system; ageing, tourism and well-being; ageing, physical and mental health and dependency; representations regarding health and physical and mental illness; practices regarding the prevention of illness and the promotion of health and subjective well-being; inequalities in access to health systems and healthcare; health, illness and public policies.
3) Genders, bodies and sexualities: representations, values and attitudes with regard to the body; body maintenance and modification practices; masculinities, femininities and gender diversity; sexual behaviours, media and social change; discrimination against LGBTI+ minorities; intimate citizenship, sexualities and rights.
4) Media, technologies, cultures and lifestyles: social conditions and inequalities in cultural practices; the role of the media in the social construction of values and identities; the digital revolution and impacts on culture, work and professional groups; intra and intergenerational differences and inequalities in uses of the media and the digital world; public policies for promoting access to culture and the digital world.
The effects of recent dynamics on Portuguese society that are derived from demographic and technological changes, the economic crisis and the retreat of the Welfare State have been new challenges for LIFE’s recent research agenda. New patterns of lifelong transition and of life stages, new inequalities, solidarities and lifestyles created in the post-crisis context, new challenges that are posing themselves in relation to education and the labour market, new emerging values, practices and forms of citizenship and relationships (between humans and between humans and non-humans) have all stimulated the development of new empirical fields in LIFE’s recent agenda, in turn resulting in new theoretical, methodological and ethical perspectives.
Focusing on Inclusion, Citizenship and Sustainability – key topics within ICS-ULisboa’s overall mission – we have paid special attention to social groups in vulnerable or discriminatory situations, be they children, young persons, elderly persons, women, unemployed, persons in precarious situations, migrants, disabled persons, and/or persons belonging to ethnic and LGBTI+ minorities, all seen from an intersectional perspective.
Research at LIFE is funded by Portuguese and international entities, either through competitive projects that take international research agendas into consideration, or in the form of projects commissioned by public and private bodies that see scientific knowledge as an indispensable contribution to the ability to diagnose problems and formulate solutions, namely in terms of public policies.
The members of LIFE RG are actively involved in outreach and scientific dissemination work, namely by means of the LIFE Research Group Blog and its Facebook page. They also collaborate with others to promote the science/society dialogue via activities organised by three ICS-ULisboa Observatories: the Permanent Youth Observatory (OPJ), the Families and Family Policies Observatory (OFAP), and the Institute for Ageing (IE). We also have a HUB for the study of relationships between humans and animals – HAS.
Various members of GI LIFE are also participating in ICS-ULisboa PhD programmes, especially the Interuniversity PhD Programme in Sociology: Knowledge for Open and Inclusive Societies, as well as in the organisation of several summer and winter schools.