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Title: Struggling for success : an ethnographic exploration of the construction of young femininities in a selective, single-sex school
Author: Allan, Alexandra
ISNI:       0000 0004 2695 2309
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2006
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Recent research focusing on young femininities has successfully argued that the 'post-feminist' success story of girls 'having it all' and 'in the conditions of their own making' is substantially misleading (Epstein and Ringrose 2006, Harris 2004). Nevertheless, the popular conception of girls' single-sex, private education as nothing less than a place of pleasure, privilege and perfection still persists. This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of the possibilities for identity construction for girls in this setting. Undertaken across two school years (Years Six and Seven), in one single-sex, selective, private school, this thesis examines the 'classed', 'gendered', 'sexualised', 'generational' and 'academic' discourses and discursive practices that constituted these girls' identities (as 'upper-middle class', 'girls', 'pupils' and 'children'). An eclectic theoretical approach has been adopted for the purposes of this study integrating feminist post-structural theory, Bourdieu's notions of capital, habitus and field, and the concept of 'social generationing' developed by proponents of the 'new' sociology of childhood (Alanen 2001). By exploring the significant and inter-related role that the body, academic achievement, sporting practices and age-based transitions played in the processes of identity constitution, the thesis will also explore the pleasures and pains articulated by these girls as they 'grew-up' and moved schools. In particular discourses of heterosexualised hyper-femininity featured strongly in the ways in which girls' identities were constructed in this setting -with many girls suggesting that they (even more than their co-educational counterparts) had to present themselves as outwardly 'heterosexual' due to the frequent (homo)sexualisation of close same-sex relationships, positionings that were intensified within a single-sex environment. Throughout the thesis the discourse of success and its relationship to femininity within the context of this elite single-sex setting is shown to be highly performative (Butler 1990), positioning girls in multiple, shifting and contradictory ways.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available