On the Cutting Edge of Intimacy: Children, Parents, and Institutions Negotiating Cultural Change


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project investigates the intersections of “complex families” (families with more than two involved parents) and their schools, workplaces, and other institutions, which are often structured as if family means “two married parents and children in one household.” It focuses on two ways in which these parents and children “do family”: how they sort out matters of discipline, money, and other issues internally, and how they interpret and explain their family situations to themselves and others in light of external contradictions. Relying upon a novel approach to ethnographic observation, the project analyzes how people and institutions negotiate the cultural mismatch in different socio-legal contexts, arguing that their intersection exemplifies the clash between two neoliberal trends, romantic reflexive individualism and increasing rationalization.