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Social Exclusion, Spaces of Household Economic Practice and Post-Socialism

A research project funded by the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council

Aims of the Research

This research project examines the ways in which households and individuals negotiate and cope with forms of social exclusion emerging from the introduction of market economies in central European cities. The research examines the strategies adopted by households and individuals, how they link informal and formal economic activities, and how they are constituted differently in contrasting geographical contexts. The purpose of the research is to provide policy-relevant results to inform discussions of social policy within the context of European Union enlargement and to contribute to theoretical debates concerning how we understand the emergent economies of post-socialism.

The research involves the following elements:

  • undertaking a comparative study of the resources and strategies employed by households and individuals in two urban communities (in the Petrzalka district of Bratislava, Slovakia and in Nowa Huta, Kraków, Poland);
  • examining the extent, form and functioning of these strategies, by using a range of methodological techniques;
  • examining the ways in which these strategies involve the construction and use of particular ‘geographies of practice’ – ranging from the household, to the residential block, extended family, neighbourhood, community, city, and beyond;
  • producing policy-relevant research results, sensitive to the diversity of the geographical contexts and scales in which households and individuals are situated, to inform discussions of social policy within the context of EU enlargement; and
  • contributing to theoretical debates concerning how we understand the ‘new economies’ of post-socialism.


These aims will be achieved through a multi-method approach at both intensive and extensive scales including:

  • statistical analysis of data on social exclusion;
  • questionnaire surveys in the two urban communities;
  • semi-structured interviews with households;
  • multi-sited ethnographies of household and community economic practices; and
  • semi-structured interviews with key informants in relevant institutions.


The research is being undertaken comparatively and is based in two large housing estates which have their origins in the socialist-era – Petrzalka (Bratislava, Slovakia) and Nowa Huta (Kraków, Poland). Not only did the two communities possess different ‘starting points’ in the search for post-socialist economic stability, but the national experience of post-socialist change has also differed. Much faster marketisation and a different experience of EU accession have been witnessed until recently in Poland than in Slovakia. The comparative approach adopted here therefore focuses on understanding the ways in which these commonalities and differences structure varying strategies and resources within the two communities, and on assessing the extent to which they create the demand for locally sensitive policy.

Key personnel

  • Adrian Smith, Professor of Human Geography, Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London
  • Alison Stenning, Lecturer in Urban and Regional Development, Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies, University of Newcastle
  • Alena Rochovská, Research Fellow, Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London
  • Dariusz Swiatek, Research Fellow, Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies, University of Newcastle
 
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by Edward Oliver. © Queen Mary, University of London 2007
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