The Monkey's Mask: Identity, Memory, Narrative, Voice

Kearney, Christopher. 2001. The Monkey's Mask: Identity, Memory, Narrative, Voice. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is a largely ethnographic analysis of the life histories of six bilingual, second generation settlers in Britain, from different language communities. All have been academically successful within the English educational system ie all possess at least a first degree from a British university. In the thesis I analyse common patterns in their experiences and chart the complex changes to their view of their own identities. From this I am attempting to trace common patterns in identity formation in complex and plural societies.

Following phenomenographic approaches, I conducted a series of unstructured 'interviews' or dialogues, which concentrated on the individuals' views of their own histories and identities. These consisted of anecdotes and vignettes of what they considered as significant episodes from their lives. Each narrative is contextualised within patterns of migration and settlement of their particular 'community'. They are also located within the broader context of the political and social conditions in Britain throughout the time of their parents' settlement and their own lives. Moreover, they are set against the changing background of legislation and public policy in Britain, particularly educational initiatives in the area of multiculturalism, anti racism and multilingualism.

I use three levels of analysis: the identification of common patterns and discontinuities, analysis of the process of identity formation and analysis of the cultural aspects of narrative style. Using such analyses I attempt to 'unriddle' the process of identity formation and discuss this against the existing literature on culture and identity. For this I draw on work in the fields of ethnography, literature, cultural studies and social psychology. I argue that there is a need for more complex theoretical conceptions than are currently employed. In the final chapter I consider the implications of the research in the light of recent educational policy in Britain.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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identity, identity formation, bilingualism, education, Britain

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Date Deposited:

29 May 2020 09:38

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:40


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