FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

The Social Production of Space and Age – A French-German Dialogue towards New Theoretical Approaches and Research Pathways – SPAGE

The Social Production of Space and Age (SPAGE)

A French-German Dialogue towards New<br />Theoretical Approaches and Research Pathways<br /><br />Theories and concepts travel between different linguistic and societal contexts. The way in which spatial approaches are used (or not) in the sociology of ageing, and more broadly in general sociology, differs in France and Germany. SPAGE proposes to engage in a Franco-German dialogue on these issues in order to come up with a common conceptual framework describing the relationship between age and space.

Three general objectives in SPAGE research

The SPAGE research has three complementary objectives: <br />1) To carry out a systematic comparison of theories on the relationship between ageing and space in France and Germany. This comparison will then lead to the development of a common general theoretical framework for interpreting the relationship between age and space.<br /><br />2) The validity of this common theoretical framework can then be tested in the two national contexts, in the light of hypothetical social similarities/differences between France and Germany.<br /><br />3) At the same time, the synergies initiated in the cross-border research will enable the establishment of a sustainable research network based on the theoretical developments and epistemological avenues explored in SPAGE, between the Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main (through the Doing Transitions research group and the Interdisciplinary Ageing Research working group) and the University of Grenoble Alpes (through the PACTE social sciences laboratory).

The SPAGE research is structured in 3 stages, organised into workpackages:

1) The first workpackage launches a Franco-German conceptual dialogue aiming to encourage the exchange of theories, concepts and epistemological approaches used in French and German research on age and space. In specific terms, the first step is to analyse the definitions of spatial concepts available in sociology and geography dictionaries. Based on the results of this analysis, the teams will be able to present a detailed knowledge of the spatial approaches used in the two countries involved in the SPAGE research. The second step involves comparing the results observed in each national context, with the support of experts in the field in France and Germany.

2) The second workpackage expands on the theoretical analysis, this time applying it to research on ageing. Here, the findings observed in the dictionaries are put into dialogue with the current work of researchers on ageing. To this end, workshops involving young researchers in the field of ageing are being organised, both in a national context and in an international comparison. Senior researchers working on the development and experimentation of spatial approaches in the field of ageing will also be involved, in order to complete the overview of the (non-)uses of spatiality in gerontology.

3) The final workpackage examines the conceptual framework developed to describe the relationship between age and space in the light of the everyday experience of older people. To do this, two groups of elderly people - one in France and the other in Germany - are formed and the relational framework is presented to them. Based on their expertise in the use of space and their experience of ageing, they will test the validity of the theory that has been developed. The two groups will then be brought together to explore any socio-cultural similarities/differences and their potential impact on perceptions and practices of space in the light of ageing.

Taken together, these workpackages will eventually lead to the questioning of dominant representations of age, such as 'age-friendliness', 'active ageing' or 'healthy ageing', and their homogeneous dissemination across national contexts.



Upcoming (2 submitted articles - sept 23)

Theories, concepts and empirical data can travel between different linguistic and societal spheres. How theories of space enrich ageing and how, in turn, the analyses of the space of ageing can contribute to the questions of general sociology, has been approached from different angles in France and in Germany in the past.

The SPAGE project proposes 1) a systematic theoretical comparison of the interplay between age, space, and social exclusion in France and Germany, resulting in a comprehensive theoretical framework. 2) We will then empirically test the framework for potential societal differences and similarities between the two countries, aiming to use their synergy effect in order 3) to create a sustainable research network based on new theoretical approaches and epistemological pathways between Goethe University Frankfurt am Main (through the impulse of the Research Group ‘Doing Transitions’ and the Working Group ‘Interdisciplinary Ageing Research’) and the Université de Grenoble Alpes (through the laboratory of social sciences PACTE where thematic of ageing in public space is developing through ongoing/emerging ANR JCJC projects).

Related to the three objectives, the project plan is divided into three work packages. In the first work package, we start a French-German conceptual dialogue aimed at facilitating the exchange of theories, concepts and epistemological pathways used in French and German research on age, space, and social exclusion. On that basis, and facilitated through four “Conceptual workshops” in both countries, we formulate a joint framework. In the second work package, a systematic empirical comparison of the interplay between age, space, and social exclusion in France and Germany leads to a specification of the framework. This second objective is twofold: as a first step, we will compare ongoing research carried out in the respective research groups/countries in both countries (“Data analysis workshops”). Exploiting the potential similarities/differences between the countries, comparative workshops are organized with German and French older participants in the partner’s country to explore how similarities/differences observed in German and French research are experienced (or not) by older adults themselves (“Bridging workshops”). Third, SPAGE wants to challenge the dominant representations of age, such as “age-friendliness”, “active ageing” or “healthy ageing”. By creating a research network on age, space and exclusion through the link between the original research team of both principal investigators, SPAGE would bring forward the multiplicity of age-diversity and age practices (handicapped elderly people/fragile age/age and gender/age and lifespan/ migratory experiences) in the production of space.

Project coordination

Thibauld Moulaert (Pacte - Laboratoire de sciences sociales)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


PACTE Pacte - Laboratoire de sciences sociales
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

Help of the ANR 573,789 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: August 2022 - 36 Months

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