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Mid-term Conference. Riga, 22 and 23 September, 2016

Advanced Social and Political Research Institute (ASPRI)

Biographical Research: Inequality and Innovation

Contemporary Europe is among the world’s richest regions. At the same time, Europe faces turbulence – like the financial crisis in 2008 and its aftermath or the recent challenges of migration. The divide  between more and less wealthy, between more and less developed, between more and less tolerant, between East and West, South and North of Europe are challenging the imagined (economic, political and cultural)  European Union. There are core EU values (human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality) at stake because of the growing inequalities and conflicts. How are social actors experiencing and facing these inequalities? How can biographical research reach new in-depth knowledge of contemporary inequalities in the EU?

One argument is that Europe has to move toward smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. One of the central concepts in debates on development is innovation. Social innovation is seen as crucial to reach new economic goals, but especially to eradicate poverty and reach greater social cohesion. However, policy and development oriented perspectives cover just one part of the issue. How are these political aims reflected at everyday level? What can be added to current debates from the micro-perspective of everyday life worlds and individual viewpoints, uncovered by biographical perspectives?  

Or generally put: What is the contribution of biographical perspectives to sociological debates and developments in contemporary Europe? Biographical research explores the interconnections of individual life worlds and society, of biographies and social contexts. With its methods of collecting and interpreting life (hi)stories biographical research gives voice to inconvenient topics or silenced stories and challenges hegemonic public and scientific discourses, for instance on inequality and innovation.

Keynote speakers:

Prof. Dr. Ursula Apitzsch (Germany): Research experience and expertise in the field of migration, gender, politics and biography

Prof. Vieda Skultans (Latvia / United Kingdom): Research experience and expertise in the field of narrative and medical anthropology

Cultural Event:

Cultural Event with Bettina Henkel

Children below Deck

A lecture-performance about a personal story of three generations: the (late) grandmother, the father and the daughter, who is the director of the film. It focuses on the trans-generational transfer of traumatic experiences, resulting from historical transformations in north-eastern Europe.


  • Baiba Bela (University of Latvia, Rīga)
  • Kaja Kaźmierska (University of Łódź/Poland)
  • Ina Alber (University of Göttingen/Germany)