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Collective (re)imaginings of social mobility: Insights from place-based, classed and gendered (im)mobility narratives

Folkes, Louise Mary 2019. Collective (re)imaginings of social mobility: Insights from place-based, classed and gendered (im)mobility narratives. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis explores how social class, place-attachment, and gender are interconnected within narratives of social (im)mobility, shaping the horizon of participants’ trajectories. Situated within a predominantly white, working-class urban suburb in south Wales, the thesis demonstrates how alternative value practices are constructed and maintained in ways that differ from the dominant social mobility narrative. Social mobility has been a key social policy concern over the last twenty years, spanning across political parties. Constructed as a ‘problem’ for the working-classes, many policy approaches have focused on the widening of educational opportunities to promote social mobility. This forms part of the dominant social mobility narrative that encourages self-improvement. Previous qualitative research in this area has explored working-class experiences of social mobility largely through access to Higher Education. Where this study differs from previous research is in its focus on alternative narratives and how value is constructed outside of the narrow conceptualisation of social mobility and ‘success’. The study adopted an ethnographic approach to explore social mobility narratives, including observational insights from the community, creative and visual techniques, interviews with community workers, and family interviews inside the family home. The participants recruited spanned the generational ladder, ranging from age four to eighty. Employing a narrative-discursive approach to analysis, the findings demonstrate how identities and narratives were constructed intersubjectively. The thesis argues that classed, place-based and gendered identities were inextricably interwoven in the construction of an alternative social mobility narrative. Narratives of fixity as opposed to mobility were dominant, with classed gender norms shaping trajectory choices. As participants’ narratives demonstrated divergence from the dominant social mobility narrative, the thesis argues that the current, narrow concept of social mobility needs re-imagining. To be able to recognise the value inherent in working-class communities, social mobility needs to incorporate a wider range of value practices and focus on mobility as a collective, rather than individual, endeavour.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: Cardiff University AHSS College
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 September 2019
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2020 01:28

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