Finding One's Place in the World: An exploration of the ways in which young people inhabit the ideological complexities of a globalised, postmodern world

  • Mark Peace

Student thesis: Phd


This study explores the ways in which young people orient themselves as moral/political beings to contemporary contexts. It sets out to understand the nature of these contexts, with a particular focus on the ideological challenges produced by globalisation and postmodernity. In equal measure, it sets out to examine the ways in which young people inhabit this context, drawing on a blend of Activity and Narrative Theory to expose the strategies that they employ to achieve such engagements. As such, it offers contributions which connect together existing literatures from divergent fields in a coherent way, and which place these amongst data reflecting lived experience. The research fundamentally conceptualises its subject matter as concerned with a process of learning (about oneself, and the world in which one inhabits). As such, though it is not concerned directly with the institution of schooling, or the practice of teaching, it contributes broadly to the field of education.The methodology of the research places equal emphasis on literature and empirical work, generating its key contributions by fostering interplay between the two. It operates by bringing together disparate aspects of theory, and holding these against a lived context, as represented by the perspectives of participants. Empirical data was generated this data through two waves of interview. In the first, sixteen teenage participants were asked in pairs to respond to a series of stimulus images. Follow-up interviews with three sets of these pairs sought responses to initial analysis and commentary on its data. Analysis combined content and critical discourse analysis, examining both what participants' said of their experience in the world, whilst also interrogating the how those responses were constructed.Through this exploration, I demonstrate that the partiality, ambiguity and contradiction borne of processes of globalisation and postmodernity contort moral/political being. These trouble our moral impulses, perceptions and usual mechanisms of response. As a result, usual theoretical frameworks that attempt to describe to moral being are often unsatisfactory. In particular, these tensions problematise the sense of moral functioning as a rational response to known experience, and the modernist portrayal of development as the gradual development of the cognitive mechanisms necessary to do this. Rather, I represent moral/political existence (what I call 'ideological being') as a more organic and reflexive process, by which individuals must import meaning and subjectivities, in order to 'anchor' partial experience in something amenable to evaluation. In doing so, I draw heavily on existing work on socially mediated being (particularly that of Wertsch and Tappan), and demonstrate the useful and cogent ways in which it might be integrated with a broader 'narrative' turn in social theory.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAndrew Howes (Supervisor) & Helen Gunter (Supervisor)


  • Social Mediation
  • Narrative
  • Globalisation
  • Postmodernity
  • Ideological Functioning
  • Moral Development

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