The performance of young working-class masculinities in the South Wales valleys
Ward, Michael R. M.
This thesis examines the lives of a group of young working-class men in a post-industrial community in the South Wales Valleys. Using a longitudinal ethnographic approach, I focus on how young masculinities within a specific community are performed across a variety of educational and leisure spaces and indicate how social, economic and cultural processes impact on the formation of self. This thesis also describes how, within the limits of place and during different social interactions, individual young men can be seen as active agents in their own construction of identity. Ideas and issues drawn from Erving Goffman’s work on the performance of self and the formation of social identity are central to the theoretical framing of the thesis. I suggest that Goffman’s dramaturgical framework has important implications for analysing performances of masculinities. When applied to masculinities (and femininities) this framework highlights how gender comes into being through socially constructed performances which are understood (consciously and unconsciously) as socially acceptable in a given situation, setting or community, not as innate biological accomplishments but as dramaturgical tasks. Throughout the thesis, through paying attention to the diversity of social identities and relations within an ostensibly homogeneous working-class community, I challenge commonly held beliefs about working-class young men that appear in the media and in policy discourses. I argue that for a group of young men in a community of social and economic deprivation, expectations and transitions to adulthood are framed through geographically and historically shaped class and gender codes.
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