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Title: Rites of passage : the negotiation of self and biography in the work-life transitional narratives of men and women
Author: Potter, Jesse Kenneth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2716 1007
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2011
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Sociology has established frameworks for understanding the self as it relates to an array of social spaces and institutional structures - from work and family to organisations and place. However, accounts, interpretations, and readings of subjectivity and processes of self-understanding as they occur in transition, between these spaces (the self in transition), are largely missing from the sociological canon. This thesis attempts to fill that gap by looking at the way individuals construct and maintain work-life narratives on the 'edge' of (or 'in between') those institutional anchors. Based on the transitional stories of twenty individuals who underwent dramatic changes in their careers, the thesis explores the ontological and biographical implications of selfunderstanding as the outcome of transitional experience. My focus is therefore on transition as a biographical process, and how that process (re)opens new frameworks for self-understanding and intrapersonal inquiry. My emphasis is on transition; on individuals' attempts to navigate and negotiate spaces of institutional absence. In Victor Turner's analysis of 'liminal space' (1969), transitional narratives can be understood as taking place within the socio-cultural, and institutional fissures of society. They are thus peripheral to the normative frameworks within which work-life narratives occur- such as notions of 'success', or what it means to have a 'career'. On the institutional 'edge', the individuals who navigate these spaces "arc neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial" (furner 1969: 95). At the same time, transitional space is shaped by the socio-cultural expectations normative frameworks provide. In the wake of institutional precedence my interviewees worked through lived experience - such as bereavement, personal illness, and religious discovery- to better understand themselves and the arc of their working-lives. My interviewees' narratives undermine the adequacy and accessibility of normative frameworks for personal biography. They articulated their transitions as attempts to (re)appropriate meaning and fulfilment. Dramatic change was thereby not just a means to a new job or career, but a medium through which issues of personal identity and self-understanding would be challenged and redrawn. In turn, what it meant to 'work' was no longer the sole auspice of productive or remunerative activity, but inclusive of spiritual, political, and interpersonal considerations as well. My interviewees thus employed transitional space as a medium through which to bring together these disparate areas.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available