Dissertation Abstracts

'A path towards the future': Experiences of disadvantage of youths on the margins

Author: Hakim Fernández, Nadia , nhakim@uoc.edu
Department: Arta and Humanities
University: Open University of Catalonia, Spain
Supervisor: Roger Martinez
Year of completion: 2016
Language of dissertation: Spanish

Keywords: Youth , Inequality , Boundary-making , Subjectivity
Areas of Research: Education , Youth , Migration


The purpose of this thesis starts from a double epistemological stance. The first stems from the thought that people −in our case, youths having immigrated to the country− are not in an integration process, but are already part of the society in which they live. The second emerges from the observation that the categories ‘immigrant’ and ‘autochtones’ don’t have clear empirical referentes and therefore discard them as analytical categories and include them as common sense categories. We propose to study this making part of and to look for more relevant and more precise analytical categories. Therefore, this work focuses on the everyday life experiences and on the subjectivity of four young men aged between 17 and 24, and part of their relational and interaction networks, both ‘online’ and ‘offline’. These particular youths were attending a formation centre created to provide an educational alternative to those who have been left out of the main education system. They are referred to as ‘cases of school failure’ −or ‘school dropouts’− and ‘immigrants’ in different contexts of their lives. These classifications are related to their being part −or not− to something wider, expressed at the level of scholar success on the one hand, and on national belonging on the other hand, which eventually has consequences on the way they imagine and achieve present and future life projects. These two levels of belonging constitute one of the pillars of the analysis of the articulation between inequalities and difference in this
dissertation. Its purpose is to understand the relationship between the process by which such symbolic frontiers are drawn, the positions of advantage or disadvantage of the various agents present in different social fields, as well as the negotiation processes of these above-mentioned classifications. We do this focusing on situations of daily interaction, and focusing on the practices of Gary, Emerson, Lucas and Dionut in the framework of a culturally specific moment of their lives: their transition to adulthood. To hit this goal, we have achieved an 18- month connected ethnography in 2011-2013. Centring the analysis on three dominant normative frameworks —success, its opposite, failure, and belonging— and on the imperative of social recognition, our results reveal 4 key issues. The first is the situationality and the complexity of the common notions of dominant and dominated positions. The second is how these youths picture themselves and their surroundings in an individualistic mode, in contrast with the entangled network of interdependence so characteristic of current capitalism. The third is the importance of youth, in contrast with adulthood, in order to understand the weak relative position of people subject to adult demands, and who have to negotiate the existing tension between hedonism and ascetism. The fourth deals with the necessity and the utility to analytically distinguish the symbolic and physical conceptions of space.