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Keynote Student Research Day 2017 Tilburg University



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Yesterday, I gave the keynote speech at the Student Research Day at the Sociology Department at Tilburg University. The talk was advertised as covering my research interest on Immigration and the Welfare State. However, it took an interesting turn, as it was my birthday!

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Keynote Student Research Day 2017 Tilburg University

  1. 1. Tim Reeskens Immigration and the Welfare State 15/30/2017 Research Day 2017
  2. 2. 25/30/2017Research Day 2017 Just kidding! Check online!
  3. 3. Tim Reeskens The Social Significance of Birthdays: A Mixed Methods Perspective
  4. 4. Addresses the way society is created and maintained through repeated interactions among individuals Subjective meaning more than objective structure (1) individuals act based on the meanings objects have for them (2) interaction occurs within a particular social and cultural context (3) meanings emerge from interactions with individuals and society (4) meanings are continuously created and recreated Symbolic Interactionism (Blumer, 1969) 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 4
  5. 5. • ‘Age’ as something biological • ‘Ageing’ as something cultural • Long-lasting idea that conceptions of ‘ageing’ differ across cultures • Western societies: valuing ‘young’ ~ strength • Asian societies: valuing ‘old’ ~ wisdom • Recent insights: cross-cultural consensus (Löckenhoff et al., 2009) • Decline in attractiveness, abilities of daily tasks, new learning • Increase in wisdom, knowledge and received respect Age as a social construct? 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 5
  6. 6. 65/30/2017Research Day 2017 What’s the social meaning of birthdays? Let’s turn it in a mixed method perspective Niet omdat het moet, maar omdat het kan But …
  7. 7. Qualitative Evidence
  8. 8. Writing about age, birthdays, and the passage of time Bill Bytheway, 2009 Mass-Observation Archive (University of Sussex) Panel of ‘ordinary’ people • In 1990 asked to write about ‘celebrations’ • In 2002 asked to write about ‘birthdays’ N = 55 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 8
  9. 9. 1. How was the day identified? 2. How was the day spent and the birthday celebrated? 3. Who was mentioned as remembering the birthday or participating in the celebrations? 4. What similarities are there in their stories? 5. To what extent do the differences reflect age-related changes? Leading questions in the study 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 9
  10. 10. Birthdays are the anniversary of birth, and the particular numbered day in a specified month is socially designated as marking ‘the anniversary’: it is the day that is celebrated rather than the hour or the week. For most people, possibly because of this precision, the day is special. As a social event it is uniquely identified by the date, the age and the name of the individual. (Bytheway, 2009, p. 891) 1. How was the day identified? 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 10
  11. 11. Despite the differences in wording, both directives inspired detailed narratives of the events of the day. These revealed a high degree of continuity in how some respondents celebrated their birthdays. (…) Ideally, gifts are surprises and some excitement may be shown as they are unwrapped. (Bytheway, 2009, p. 894) 2. How was the day spent and the birthday celebrated? 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 11
  12. 12. For most respondents, the people who participated in their birthday celebrations are a key element in their stories. (…) Birthday cards are an important way of maintaining long-established relationships, representing a symbolic and continuing link with the past: some respondents indicated that they were much valued. In addition to cards, the descriptions of birthdays included details of who participated in phone calls, meals, visits and parties. The predictable progression of generations through family life is again evident in these details. (Bytheway, 2009, pp. 894-895) 3. Who participated in the celebrations? 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 12
  13. 13. Perhaps the most basic and simple continuity is the salience of the date. The analysis has revealed that a birth date is not just part of our bureaucratic identity but also of our social, cultural and personal identities. (Bytheway, 2009, p. 898) 4. What similarities are there in their stories? 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 13
  14. 14. The most obvious changes revealed by the analysis were in the respondents’ family and social networks. We all learn to live with, the fact that generations ‘move on’, that mortality assures that one generation succeeds another, but the impact of this experience of ageing has not been satisfactorily documented by social gerontology. (…) Age-related change is not only evident in the relationships of the family members who participated in celebrations, but also in the durations of friendships and acquaintanceships. (Bytheway, 2009, pp. 898-899) 5. Does difference reflect age-related changes? 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 14
  15. 15. Quantitative Evidence
  16. 16. The relationship between birthdays (X) and age (Y) 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 16
  17. 17. • Debate initiated by Barraclough and Shepherd (1976) ~ Excess deaths 30 days before and after birthday (sample: > 75 y/o) • VS • Suicide postponement (Philips & Feldman, 1973) ‘Birthday Blues’ or ‘Postponement’? 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 17
  18. 18. Birthday Blues? (1) 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 18 Williams et al. (2011), p. 136
  19. 19. Birthday Blues (2) 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 19 Williams et al. (2011), p. 137
  20. 20. So, to conclude … Who cares, as long as there are chocolates? THANK YOU!!! 5/30/2017Research Day 2017 20