Constructions of 'gendered agency' : Perspectives from a multi-ethnic Sure Start programme.

HAMM, Patricia. (2009). Constructions of 'gendered agency' : Perspectives from a multi-ethnic Sure Start programme. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

Theorists such as Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim have presented an 'individualisation thesis' which states that in our 'de-traditionalised', globalised world of late modernity, identities are now fluid and individual trajectories no longer fixed; as 'reflexive agents', we must choose from an array of lifestyles and assemble our own 'life projects'. This emphasis on active agency is reflected in constructions of welfare users in 'Third Way' and New Labour policy in the UK. Policy discourses depict welfare agents as aspirational and responsible decision-makers, simultaneously downplaying structural differences and presenting 'families' and 'communities' as consensual and motivated by shared interests. Sure Start, an area-based New Labour programme for families with young children can be seen as exemplifying many of these characteristics, and can be viewed also as a 'Third Way' initiative, reflecting in particular, a focus on a 'social investment' perspective. This thesis, based on a study of a Sure Start programme in the multi-ethnic area of Brambleton, considers the extent to which policy and theoretical assumptions about parental agency are reflected in constructions of mothers and professionals. The qualitative case study approach emphasises the contextualisation of findings in 'time' and 'place', in particular depicting Brambleton as a 'racialised space' through which understandings of 'need' and agency are constructed. It explores the social processes through which mothers are able to act in the family, the community and within the Sure Start programme. This is done using an epistemology which combines both constructivism and phenomenology and a theoretical framework that incorporates aspects of Bourdieu's 'theory of practice'. The methodology used includes a focus on the life stories of white and Pakistani mothers, interviews with professionals and a narrative approach to analysis.Research findings suggest that agency should be understood as shaped by identity within the family and through cultural practices. In addition and in a reflection of this, they point to the differential access to and impacts of Sure Start use for white and Pakistani-origin mothers in Brambleton in this period, highlighting the varied 'rationalities for action' that welfare users have. These findings have significant implications both for theoretical models of agency and for policy, in particular, suggesting that policy needs to incorporate a more nuanced understanding of human agency which prioritises a recognition of difference and constraint.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2009.
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:20
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2018 17:20
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/19749

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