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Title: Learning to be 'me' : a study of the identities of young people in a residential school
Author: O'Neill, Christopher
ISNI:       0000 0001 3453 4164
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2003
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Is it possible to have a unique and unified sense of your own identity if you eat, sleep, work and play for most of the year within the confines of what Goffman called a "total institution"? The research, which takes the form of a case study of a group of adolescent boys who are students at an English Public School, explores the formation and presentation of unique personal identity in its subjects ' written autobiographical narratives. It seeks to answer the question: In their autobiographical writings, how far do the students in the research school construct a sense of themselves which is unified and unique? Using a narrative conception of identity derived from the work of Erikson and McAdams, the study collects a variety of biographical and ethnomethodological material in which the students present both their perceptions of themselves, and their unusual and intensive social world. The extensive biographical data are hermeneutically and minutely analysed to reveal the large number of ways in which the students ' stories achieve both idiosyncratic uniqueness as well as convincing unity. The results of these analyses are summarised in the form of a detailed Taxonomy of Narrative Differences, and a further Taxonomy of Unifying Patterns. The ethnomethodological data concerning the students 'perceptions of their private peer-group world reveal that their social world is constituted as a hierarchical "honour morality " with a "code '' of unwritten rules and values which prescribe socially-acceptable behaviour and self-presentation. Powerful though this "code" (and its associated moral lexicon) may be in regulating students' social behaviour and self-presentation amongst their peers, neither it, nor the school's official rules and values have a significant place in the students' autobiographies. The students' autobiographies demonstrate a unique and unified sense of identity which seems to be learned as a result of their personal experiences. In this way, the study's findings validate biographical learning theories such as those of Jarvis. On the other hand, they also suggest that aspects of the work of Erikson, Goffman and McAdams may need to be re-examined.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Public schools