Narrating identities and educational choices: the case of migrant and Greek young people
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The processes of educational decision making and formations of identity lie at the heart of the present thesis that explores the narratives of twenty-three young people with migrant and nonmigrant background. The thesis analyzes the cases of eleven Greek and twelve migrant participants, of Albanian, Georgian, Armenian and Palestinian ethnicities attending two upper secondary Lyceums in Greece, one sub-urban Vocational and one inner-city Comprehensive located in the city of Thessaloniki. The narratives of young people are analyzed as performative acts and as social practices constructed locally and intersubjectively, rather than as expressions of their essentialist realities.The narrative analysis aims more specifically at demonstrating empirically the social conditionings of school choice and the intricate ways that decision-making is cross-cut by and implicated in the processes of identity formation and negotiation. The educational choices these young people are called to make are situated within the broader socioeconomic and discursive milieu and within the structural arrangements of the post-16 institutional landscape of Greece. The issue of youth agency as grappling against the structural limitations of a given milieu, with its cultural particularities is at the backdrop of the present qualitative study. Young people’s identities are conceptualized as being produced, negotiated and contested in a shifting context through the interactions with significant others, namely their peers, teachers and families and through the interplay of identifications, social positions, capitals, transforming individual habituses and the institutional contexts of the two schools. In more detail, the subjectively felt classed, ethnic and gendered positions are analyzed as perceived, invested and discoursively performed by the young participants. Central role is attributed to the notion of habitus as embodying the complex interweaving of dispositions, discourses, collective and individual histories. It is argued that the processes of activation and re-conversion of capitals (economic, social, cultural) in which young people engage, along with the dynamic change of habitus in the face of evolving conditions in the host country, can be a potentially useful conceptual schema for understanding the ways migrant and non-migrant young people experience and make sense of their positioning in social space. The processes of drawing distinctions between perceived others and themselves mediate the ways young people engage in the weaving of their identities through a more or less ascribed, constrained and perpetually negotiated sense of belonging. In addition analytical attention is paid to the parental engagement and in particular the resources and dispositions that young people’s families invest and transmit in relation to their schooling and their academic and occupational future. In this frame the narrated educational choices are embedded in young people’s learner identities and familial histories and are closely linked with their projections and envisioning of the future. To conclude, the decision-making dynamics emerge through a matrix weaved by differing resources, positions and dispositions that grant young people with unequal opportunities for constructing selfnarratives and engaging with school choice.