Separation Talk: The Milieu-Specific of Separation Legitimations

Judith Eckert, Eva-Maria Bub, Cornelia Koppetsch


Despite the social normalisation and moral de-problematisation of separation and divorce, they are usually anything but normal or unproblematic events for those affected. The events have to be ordered, the separation needs to be legitimised and one's own identity requires rehabilitation; this can result in striking narrative  dynamics in qualitative interviews dealing with separation. Previous research has revealed the connection between the form, content, and function of separation talk as well as social differentiation: role, gender, and socio-structural factors. To the functional analyses of the narratives, of 46 interviews (23 ex-couples) in our study "Couples after separation", we add, as a further and superordinate differentiation, the category of social milieu. We exemplify our argument that separation talk varies depending on this dimension by exploring the contrasting individualised and traditional milieus. They differ in a fundamental way in their relationship models and corresponding separation legitimations, and in their plausibility strategies and in their conception of what constitutes a desirable identity. Beyond the concrete subject of separation and separation talk, we also touch on two important aspects of qualitative research: the differentiation of milieus and the relationship between performance and representation in interviews.


separation; separation talk; interviews; narrative analysis; positioning analysis; integrative approach; narrative identity; plausibility strategies; social milieu; therapeutic culture; psychologising; performance; representation


Copyright (c) 2019 Judith Eckert

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