Studying the Fabric of Everyday Life

By Chimirri, Niklas A.; Klitmøller, Jacob et al. | Outlines : Critical Practice Studies, May 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Studying the Fabric of Everyday Life


Chimirri, Niklas A., Klitmøller, Jacob, Hviid, Pernille, Outlines : Critical Practice Studies


What determines our judgment, our concepts and reactions, is not what one man is doing now, an individual action, but the whole hurly-burly of human actions, the background against which we see any action.

Seeing life as a weave, this pattern (pretence, say) is not always complete and is varied in a multiplicity of ways ... And one pattern in the weave is interwoven with many others. (Wittgenstein, 1967, §567-569; as cited in Curry, 2000, pp. 106-107)

The fabric of everyday life

We live our lives as part of the 'whole hurly-burly of human actions', a weave which is incomplete, varied and interwoven with an unfathomable number of other weaves. Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out this interwovenness of everyday life as action, its multiplicity and complexity, its ever-changing, processual nature. At the same time he developed concepts that help us grasp how human beings against this background come to make judgments, communicate, create and maintain meaning with one another - from within the fabric of everyday life, as cultural geographer Michael R. Curry termed it in a book chapter on Wittgenstein's significance for his field. Life as a weave, thus, does not only connote human ephemeral creation and transformation, but also maintenance and persistence: "If life is 'a weave', that weave is at once evanescent and enduring" (Curry, 2000, p. 107). The weave connotes both everyday life's temporal and spatial qualities as well as its intricate contradictoriness, out of which for instance places are both "created and maintained through the everyday actions of everyday life" (p. 110).

Outlines: Critical studies of the everydayness of practice

It is this focus on human action in its spatio-temporal contradictoriness, as both creation and maintenance, which is at the heart of this special issue of Outlines: Critical Practice Studies. After all, the 'whole hurly-burly of human actions' is precisely what the term practice most commonly denotes, ergo the entirety of human production and reproduction. The concept therefore sets the stage for scientifically studying human actions and doings as both creating and maintaining everyday life. Meanwhile, such studies do not merely describe in order to accurately reproduce the everyday they study: They critically engage with the practice they study or, drawing on Marxian philosopher and social scientist Henri Lefebvre (1987, 2014), they critically engage with the everydayness of the everyday. For Lefebvre, industrialized modernity is characterized by the fact that even the possibilities of resisting totalities are themselves entirely rationalized, linearized, functionalized, prefabricated, and controlled. His multi-faceted, materialist post-Cartesian analytic frame remains invaluable for sketching out the fleeting and contradictory two-sidedness of contemporary everyday life and thereby countering those one-sided reductions of lived experience which Lefebvre feared. The most fundamental of these contradictions regards repetition and change: "The days follow one after another and resemble one another, and yet - here lies the contradiction at the heart of everydayness - everything changes" (1987, p. 10). In order, though, to regard this assertion as a potentially productive opening for studying change in repetition and vice versa, as is the case in the issue at hand (cf. especially Hybholt, 2015), the totality of Lefebvre's dystopic continuation of the passage ("But the change is programmed: obsolescence is planned" [Lefebvre, 1987, p. 10]) needs itself to be critically questioned, scrutinized and conceptually renegotiated.

Alternatives to such totalizing critiques of the everyday can in fact be outlined, as the contributions to this special issue demonstrate. In this sense, the present issue presents conceptual and empirically informed work which sheds light on general facets of the fabric of everyday life, while at the same time acknowledging that the practice of research is just as any other practice situated and epistemically limited and partial. …

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