This multi-year longitudinal ethnographic project asks: How does the first postsocialist generation make a living, as young people go on their own in the Polish semi-peripheral, financialized capitalism? Led by Marta Olcoń-Kubicka and Mateusz Halawa, this work explores the formation of young middle-class family households in Warsaw and their subsequent trajectories through labor, housing, and consumer markets on the one hand, and shifting life stages and family relationships, on the other. Building on debates in economic sociology, economic anthropology, and the social studies of finance, we analyse how individuals form, transform, and dissolve their households by moralising, calculating, drawing boundaries, and forming attachments around love, money, and financial devices. We study couples as they negotiate solidarity and autonomy through domestic budgets, and as they face historically novel risks and uncertainties of financialization. So far our research has focused, among other things, on the social, cultural, and economic productictivity of local and foreign currency mortgages; on the gendered moral ordering of household relations through monetary practices and everyday banking; and on the role of digital technologies and design in the everyday ethics of householding.
Since 2018, we have increasingly explored the linkages and practices between related households, including intergenerational transfers inter vivos, imaginaries and realities of inheritance, or designs for succession in first-generation family firms. While our ethnographic fieldwork remains anchored in Warsaw young middle-class households, we follow the kinship, romantic, and economic ties that household members, often migrants, maintain with those outside the city and country. We also pay attention to differences in family wealth, housing class, and access to credit, thus creating insights relevant to broader transdisciplinary debates about the microfoundations of economic inequality. In 2019, we have begun working with the advisory board, which includes Sue Heath (University of Manchester), Richard Ronald (University of Amsterdam), Frederick Wherry (Princeton University).
This research has been funded by the National Science Centre, Poland under the OPUS program. First, in 2014-2017, we conducted the project Practices of handling money in close relationships in young family households (DEC-2013/09/B/HS6/03426). Then, from 2019-2021, we have been conducting the project Intergenerational transactions: Relational work and moral frames in transfers of wealth from parents to their adult children (DEC-2018/29/B/HS6/02072).