University of Sussex
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Being and doing boy: marginalised young masculinities and professional practice

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posted on 2023-06-10, 02:03 authored by Roma-Joy Margot Thomas
This thesis examines the perspectives of a group of teenage boys, marginalised through school exclusion, and the practice of professionals. Central concerns are the accounts these boys give of themselves discursively and through their material and embodied practices. The roles and relationships of professionals and the situated context of a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) setting are key elements that are also examined. The study uses a mixed methods approach within an overall approach of ethnography. In addition to participant observation, twice-weekly group work sessions were undertaken at a PRU in London over a three-month period. The research was conducted with a group of five ethnically diverse boys aged 14 and 15. Drama based creative and participative methods were used in the group work. Interviews and focus groups were undertaken with professionals. Borrowing from longitudinal research methods, the research design used reflexive and recursive methods to explore data with research participants at different time phases. This included returning to the research site one year after the group work phase to involve a second group of boys (age 15-16) from the PRU in data analysis for the study. The study examines enactments of identity and subject positions taken up by and conferred upon boys in this research. It explores how the practice of professionals, including teachers, teaching assistants, social workers and multi-disciplinary professionals, can contribute to possibilities for excluded boys. The thesis explores the work of gender and critically engages with theories of hegemonic masculinities that shape the field. The methods used are designed to enable close listening and affectively attuned attention to participants’ ways of being and doing boy in the PRU context, working creatively with the analyses and insights provided by the young men themselves. The research is set within a post structural framework and informed by psychosocial approaches and theories of affect and materiality. Through these approaches the study develops thick descriptions that produce new insights into the relationship between identity, subjectivity and performativity. The voices of boys who took part in the research are central to the conclusions of the study. The PRU is presented as a transitory and inherently contradictory space that is caught between its role as a return pathway to the often idealised space of mainstream school, and its role as a therapeutic space that offers young people the attention they need. It is argued that this contradictory context also contributes to conditions of impossibility for excluded boys. Key contributions to the research field include an expanded understanding of the situated nature of identity and subject formation and an analysis of masking and concealment as carried out at the PRU by boys and professionals. The study highlights complexities and challenges for professional practice with excluded young people and presents ways of stimulating reflective practice as well as the central importance of listening to the voices of marginalised boys and understanding their motivations.


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  • Social Work and Social Care Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

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