This course offers a double answer to this question. On the one hand, it is an introduction to the major issues that researchers looking at family issues are addressing about life in families. On the other hand, it is a presentation of a particular way of learning about family life that emphasizes both the conditions of family life (social, cultural, political, etc.) and the implications of the fact that family members are agents at work building their lives and transforming their condition.
The course is organized on the model of the life cycle of a family over two generations, from established adulthood, through child bearing, socialization and education of the children, growing up, getting married, divorced and dealing with the illness and death of parents.
In every instance, the focus is interactional with an emphasis on the concreteness of the actions being performed, of the resources used, of the institutions involved, and above all of the historical position of actual families. This interactional focus will always be dealt with from the point of view of "cultivation" and the production of historically powerful "difference"--what has led anthropologists and those who have used their work to talk about "culture." Culture is a fundamental aspect of human nature and no understanding of human action is possible outside a framework emphasizing the social facting of one's historical conditions.