IN MEMORIAM: JIM KEMENY

Jim Kemeny, professor emeritus vid IBF, har gått ur tiden. Jim var mellan åren 1994 och 2005 den förste innehavaren av IBF:s professur i sociologi och kanske institutets internationellt mest välrenommerade företrädare. Hans bidrag till den samhällsvetenskapliga bostadsforskningen var banbrytande, och hans teorier om bostadsregimer och bostadspolitik är återkommande utgångspunkter i dagens forskning och debatt.

Som professor vid IBF och som redaktör för tidskriften Housing,Theory and Society var Jim en stark förespråkare för ökad teorianknytning och teoriutveckling i bostadsforskningen, i ömsesidig dialog med generell samhällsvetenskaplig teori. Jim Kemeny blev 77 år gammal.

Några av Jim Kemenys viktigaste böcker är: The Myth of Home-ownership. Private Versus Public Choices in Housing Tenure (1981), Housing and Social Theory (1992), From Public Housing to the Social Market: Rental Policy Strategies in Comparative Perspective (1995) och Social Constructionism in Housing Research (2004) [med Keith Jacobs och Tony Manzi].

NIls Hertting (prefekt) och Bo Bengtsson (seniorprofessor i statskunskap)

In Memoriam: Jim Kemeny

Till minne av Jim Kemeny

Cecilia Enström Öst, forskare i nationalekonomi
 

Jag träffade Jim första gången 1999 i samband med att jag anställdes som forskningsassistent vid IBF. Goda vänner blev vi när jag sedan kom att bli redaktörsassistent vid tidskriften Housing, Theory and Society (HTS) där Jim sedan tidigare var Editor. Trots att jag sedan började forskarutbildningen i nationalekonomi, en disciplin som Jim hade en i egna ögon sund skepsis till, så kom han att vara ett stort stöd för mig under forskarutbildningen. Vi hade många promenader i Boulognerskogen med roliga, förtroliga och uppmuntrande samtal.

Något bister var han dock när jag i en kurs i vetenskapsteori skrev en kritisk uppsats om social konstruktivism. När han hade läst uppsatsen och kom för att ge mig sitt omdöme så ställde han sig på en upphöjd avsats som fanns i rummet och sa: ”I will stand up here since I want to look down at you. I realise that you are very critical to social constructivism…”.  När jag sedan läste hans kommentarer var de givetvis mycket hjälpsamma och inkännande. Som den sanne vetenskapsman han var, hade han förmågan att ge hjälpsamma synpunkter fastän hans teoretiska utgångspunkter var helt annorlunda.

Ett annat minne av Jim är från min allra första ENHR-konferens. Då förstod jag vilken internationell storhet Jim var. Trots detta skydde han offentligheten. Jag var rätt mallig när han föredrog en promenad med en nybliven doktorand som mig framför att mingla med andra professorer.

En annan sida av Jim fick jag lära känna under en av våra många resor till Stockholm och det förlag som gav ut HTS. Då berättade han för mig om stenar och kristaller, dess betydelse och dess helande effekt. Ett besök i kristallbutiken kom att bli en återkommande vana vid alla våra stockholmsbesök.

Jag har många fantastiska minnen av Jim och jag har bara nämnt några, men som ni förstår gav mötena ett bestående intryck. Innan Jim gick i pension gav han mig en ny och bättre titel, ”editorial associate”, som ett tack för den hjälp han tyckte han fått av mig med redaktionsarbetet. Men det är jag som ska tacka. Tack Jim för allt du gav.

Jim Kemeny 1942-2020 – personal reflections

Hannu Ruonavaara, gästprofessor i sociologi och redaktör för Housing, Theory & Society

As most housing researchers know, Jim Kemeny’s work has been very influential in housing studies since the 1980s. This influence is also ongoing. The 2018 special issue of Housing, Theory and Society with focus articles by David Clapham and myself, as well as comments by a dozen distinguished housing scholars, was a tribute to Jim’s work.  A forthcoming issue of Housing, Theory and Society will publish Mark Stephens’ focus article (with comments) in which he presents analytically and scrutinizes empirically Jim’s last theory of housing regime. Jim developed it in the book From Public Housing to the Social Market (1995) as well as a number of articles from late 1990s to mid-2000s. Jim presented his first theory of housing regimes in the book The Myth of Home-ownership (1981). It sparked off a long-standing line of research and debate about the relationship between dominance of home-ownership and welfare state development.  Between these two landmark books came Housing and Social Theory (1992).  That book argued for the idea that housing studies on one hand should keep an eye on the theoretical developments in relevant academic disciplines and on the other hand itself contribute to theory development.   

Jim was a versatile sociologist drawing influences from and seeking synthesis of, for example, welfare state research, political science, Weberian and Marxist urban sociologies and … symbolic interactionism, his intellectual home. However, to my knowledge, he never published anything based on the typical interactionist empirical research, ethnographic fieldwork. His work on housing regimes of which he is most well-known is mostly macro-sociological. This is not as paradoxical as might seem. After all, his doctoral dissertation from 1976, of which I have a thick, stenciled copy in my office, was about the application of interactionism to macro-sociological study. Perhaps the interactionist inspiration was best seen in Jim’s writings on the social construction of housing facts and policies, an interest he had since the 1980, culminating in the anthology he co-edited (with Tony Manzi and Keith Jacobs), Social Constructionism in Housing Research (2004).  For Jim, constructionism was just an offshoot of symbolic interactionism. 

Apart from being hugely influential in housing studies, Jim's work was personally very important to me. I was very impressed by The Myth of Home-ownership, especially how it linked society’s tenure structure to its social structure – which for Jim was largely cultural. Reading the book inspired me to change the topic of my doctoral dissertation from local traffic policy to growth of home-ownership in Finland. The proportion of home-ownership was reaching the highest percentages ever and it seemed that housing provision in Finland was getting to be very one-sided, with obvious problems for vulnerable groups. Jim’s concept, “home-owning society”, seemed to describe the kind of society that Finland had become – with some crucial differences.       

About the same time that I was reorienting my doctoral research project I also read Jim’s paper on social construction of housing facts (1984). Being very much influenced by British critical realism I sent Jim a letter containing a stern “realist” critique (!) of that paper. To my delight, the mail brought me a very friendly answer from him.  The letter was not so much a reply to my criticisms but more an invitation to take part in the coming international housing conference in Gävle in the summer of 1986.  

That conference was the first international conference that I attended. There I, of course, met Jim who seemed to be a bit embarrassed about meeting a fan. We had a brief talk and met every now and then during my time in Gävle. It was a very successful conference with quite extraordinary and inspiring plenary speeches (e.g. by Peter Marcuse and Ulf Torgersen) and many interesting papers in workshops. It also was where the European Network for Housing Research was born.  I was very impressed about the conference and it gave me a huge boost in continuing with housing studies. The paper I presented there dealt with Jim's idea of home-owning society applied to the case of Finland. It became my first English language publication.

At the invitation of people at the institute, I started to attend seminars regularly in Gävle and Uppsala. I met Jim every now and then during my visits. Once when I had a little research money left, I organized a seminar in Turku where I invited Jim. Years after that he remembered (as pleasant) the ferry trip over the Gulf of Bothnia he did then with his son. Sometimes Jim sent me drafts of papers to read and comment, and as the first editor of the renewed institute’s journal, renamed Housing, Theory and Society, he recruited me to be the journal’s book review editor. Though we did not meet often, nor did any research together, I feel that Jim was always very supportive of my research.

I never did get to know Jim personally but my impression is that he was a person who was very dedicated to his work and appreciated his privacy. He told me once that he did not like going to conferences. Apart from that big Gävle conference where he was one of the organizers I remember seeing him in an international conference only once – giving a plenary speech through a video link.

Jim was an innovator and a powerhouse of ideas who started important debates and lines of research. To me, as well as many others in housing studies, his work remains an inspiration in pursuing theory-relevant research on housing issues.

References

Jacobs, K., Kemeny, J., & Manzi, T. eds. (2004). Social constructionism in housing research. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate.

Kemeny, J. (1976). An interactionist approach to macro sociology. Doctoral dissertation. Gothenburg: University of Gothenburg.

Kemeny, J. (1981). The myth of home-ownership: private versus public choices in housing tenure. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Kemeny, J. (1984) ‘The social construction of housing facts’, Scandinavian Housing and Planning 1(3: 149-164.

Kemeny, J. (1992). Housing and social theory. London: Routledge.

Kemeny, J. (1995). From public housing to the social market: rental policy strategies in comparative perspective. London: Routledge doi: 10.1080/02815738408730045.

Jacobs, K., Kemeny, J. and Manzi, T. (2017) Social constructionism in housing research, Social Constructionism in Housing Research. doi: 10.4324/9781315242965.

Ruonavaara, H. (1987) ‘The Kemeny approach and the case of Finland’, Scandinavian Housing and Planning Research 4(3): 163-177. doi: 10.1080/02815738708730131.