14 SES 11 B, School Related Transitions across Cultural Contexts
In a context of rapid social change, it has become increasingly difficult to answer the question: where and how do young people belong (Wyn 2015). Important research has focused for a long period on this question of belonging using positive youth development frameworks to understand how adolescents relate to and cope within institutions (e.g. schooling) and social relations through a period of instability and identity formation (Arnett 2000, Balsano 2005, Larsson 2000). This paper, however, takes a sociological approach to belonging to examine where and how do young people belong in the post-school transition to adulthood.
Drawing on a two-decade longitudinal study of young people in the state of Victoria, Australia, this paper challenges traditional conceptualisations of youth based on the metaphor of transitions to embrace the emerging metaphor of belonging. It does so by comparing the post-school transitions into further and higher education and employment for urban and rural youth. I argue that youth transitions metaphor emphasise the relationship between youth, education and labour market policies that aim to support young people to move through a series of normative stages (school to work for example), rather than the social processes occurring between these points, where life is built and lived (Furlong 2009, Hall et al. 2009). This approach is supported by research technologies usually involving large-scale surveys on which young people’s trajectories are recorded against pre-determined markers of progress (Wyn 2015). It has naturalised the post-school transitions by promoting the notion of universal and standard transitional stages and common understandings of what means to be young; whereas those young people following non-standard patterns of life are seen at risk and in need of governmental intervention (du Bois-Reymond & Stauber 2005, Wyn 2015). I will argue in the paper, that this normative expectation is not possible to achieve as a social group for rural youth due to the structure limitations in educational opportunities.
I argue that the metaphor of belonging enables educational researchers and policy-makers to better capture what happens between the life course markers and sheds light on how youth are compelled to ‘invent’ their own futures as traditional pathways disappeared or blocked. Belonging expands the youth agenda to include issues of social relationships, health, wellbeing, place, culture, and inter-generational relations. I do not have space here to summarise the vast literature on belonging but rather offer a theoretical approach. I focus on three key aspects of belonging. Firstly, young people’s belonging to a place, a sense of rootedness, a form of attachment; ‘a personal, intimate, feeling of being ‘at home’ in a place’ (Antonsich 2010: 645). Secondly, young people’s belonging to people that matter to them (see Wyn 2015). Meaningful ties and interactions with family, close friends, neighbours and other members of a community have the capacity to generate a sense of belonging for individuals and shape the decisions and choices they made. Thirdly, young people’s lives are shaped by their relation to people and physical places but also through a ‘belonging to the times’ (Cuervo & Wyn 2012). Youth as a relational concept is linked to social, economic, political, and cultural conditions that form the consciousness of a generation. Finally, it is important to state that belonging just does not happen, ‘one does not simply or ontologically ‘belong’ to the world or to any group within it’ (Bell 1999: 3). Drawing on Butler (1997), I also theorised participants’ belonging as an effect of individual performances involving everyday practices (e.g. sharing common spaces, conversations, activities) that work to sustain, for example, an attachment to people, places, institutions and ways of being.
Antonsich, M., 2010. Searching for belonging – an analytical framework. Geography Compass, 4/6, 644-659. Arnett, J. J., 2000. Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American psychologist, 55(5), 469. Balsano, A., 2005. Youth civic engagement in the United States: Understanding and addressing the impact of social impediments on positive youth and community development. Applied Developmental Science, 9, 188-201 Butler, J., 1997. Excitable Speech: The Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge. Bell, V., 1999. Performativity and Belonging: An Introduction. Theory Culture and Society, 16 (2), 1-10. Cuervo H. & Wyn, J. (2012) Young People Making it Work. Melbourne: MUP. du Bois-Reymond, M. and Stauber, B., 2005. Biographical Turning Points in Young People’s Transitions to Work across Europe, in H. Helve and G. Holm, (Eds.). Contemporary Youth Research: Local Expressions and Global Connections. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp. 63-75. Furlong, A., 2009. Revisiting transitional metaphors: reproducing inequalities under the conditions of late modernity. Journal of Education and Work, 22 (5), 343 – 353. Hall, T., Coffey, A., and Lashua, B., 2009. Steps and stages: rethinking transitions in youth and place. Journal of Youth Studies, 12 (5), 547 – 561. Larson, R., 2000. Toward a psychology of positive youth development. American Psychologist, 55, 170-183. Tyler, D., Cuervo, H. & Wyn, J. (2011) Researching Youth Transitions. Melbourne: MUP. Wyn, J., 2015. Young people and belonging in perspective. In A. Lange, H. Reiter, S. Schutter & C. Steiner (eds.) Handbook of Child and Youth Sociology. Dodretch: Springer.
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