White working class women, subjectivity and neoliberalism. A school based exploration of young women’s experiences and how these experiences have shaped their planned trajectories in the UK context

Worwood, Kelly. 2020. White working class women, subjectivity and neoliberalism. A school based exploration of young women’s experiences and how these experiences have shaped their planned trajectories in the UK context. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis explores the subjective constructions of white working class young women in the UK. It is comprised of school-based case studies; analysis of demographic questionnaires, focus groups and 13 interviews with white working class 14-15 year old girls.

The research is qualitative; applying quantitative analysis which places the cohort within the national demographic context. A review of relevant educational history and current policy is provided alongside existing research findings addressing gender, racial and socio-economic marginalisation within education and wider society.

White working class identity is identified through social stratification tools and theorised through alignment to feminist and social justice arguments. The thesis is feminist post-structuralist; performative subjective discursive construction is applied. Respondents’ experiences are articulated within a neo-liberal gaze and the individualisation premise offers a counterpoint to post-structural subjectivity. Both approaches are necessary when conceiving of respondents’ subjectivities.

Respondents share their familial, educational and social contexts alongside their personal, educational and professional trajectories. The findings here depict respondents inhabiting a ‘post-equality of opportunity’ ‘post-feminist’ age, resulting in a pseudo-meritocratic world view even when classed, gendered and raced trajectories emerge. Individualisation leads to self-responsibility prevailing in respondents’ explanations, even against the backdrop of material, social and educational barriers. Ambition is described but this is often not enabled by the realities of their lives.

Neo-liberal classed, gendered and raced versions of feminine identity emerge from socio-political, media and policy rhetoric. Demonised depictions of working class femininity and motherhood sit at odds with the strong working class women respondents often cite as heroines. Middle class feminine identity is understood though respondents’ perceptions of futures which are acceptable and respectable. Discourses oscillate between the narrow versions of personhood on offer. Respondents discursively resist negative versions of working class identity. However they also simultaneously reinforce them, securing themselves positions of safety under a neo-liberal gaze.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.25602/GOLD.00028378

Keywords:

White working class, school , subjectivity, Neoliberalism, Post-structuralism, Feminism, Individualisation

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies

Date:

29 February 2020

Item ID:

28378

Date Deposited:

23 Apr 2020 15:24

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2021 05:51

URI:

https://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/28378

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