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Title: Understanding the place and meaning of physical activity in the lives of young people : an ethnographic study with two youth centres in a low-income urban area of Northern England
Author: Morris, Stephanie Laura
ISNI:       0000 0004 6351 3567
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2017
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This study was conducted in response to the low levels of physical activity in young people in the UK (and elsewhere) that are considered a major public health challenge. Adopting a critical ethnographic approach, this study explores how physical activity fits into the daily lives of young people (13-21-year-olds) from two youth centres in an urban area of Northern England. This approach enabled the exploration of young people’s physical activity perceptions and practices within the context, complexities, and contingencies of their wider lives, rather than as a compartmentalised phenomenon. Drawing on recent re-conceptualisations of the life-course and anthropological theories of childhood, I show that changes in physical activity over time were enmeshed within life-phase expectations and experiences, but were also non-linear and contingent. Social expectations of adolescence limited some young people’s physical activity practices, and yet many etched out ways of being mobile and physically active, including re-living childhood games on the streets, parks, and at youth centres. Employing spatial theories, I explain how the young people negotiated their sense of safety in their local environments in order to be mobile; created places of their own for sociality; and used spaces and props in the material environment to engage in informal physical activity practices such as “hardcore parkour”. I lastly use Foucauldian and gender theories to re-think how understandings and practices of physical activity were gendered, and centred around the self and the body’s appearance and capability. Many of the young men in particular engaged in ‘self-bettering’ practices: some took up boxing to deal with challenges in their lives and some shaped muscular, fit, and ‘healthy’ bodies. This thesis critically challenges the dominant discourses that shape young people’s individualistic understandings of themselves, their lives, and their physical activity practices. Engaging closely with the young people’s actions and experiences helps to reveal how the socioeconomic and material environments, that young people negotiate in daily life, interact with their physical activity and mobility practices.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available