• Rachel Wilde

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is an organisational ethnography that seeks to make an original contribution to anthropological knowledge through an iterative interrogation of neoliberalism and personhood.Endeavour (a pseudonym) is a gap year organisation based in the UK that runs trips abroad to Central America, India and Borneo for young people. A gap year is any period of between three months to two years outside formal education or employment, but often refers to a year-off preceding university. Endeavour is a registered charity committed to what it describes as "personal development". It attempts this by organising young people into small groups to participate in adventurous challenges and work on charitable projects in community development and environmental conservation.Using multi-sited ethnography, the thesis moves from the marketing, fundraising and recruitment in Endeavour's Head Office to the implementation and management of expeditions in Central America. The thesis explores the daily workings, processes and practices of Endeavour and how these are influenced by and connected to the current political-economic climate in the UK as it works to produce a particular type of gap year experience and through this a particular kind of person.In exploring the process by which neoliberal persons are shaped at a gap year organisation, the thesis considers different aspects of the organisation and how it interacts with and is shaped by its context. It argues that the demands of neoliberalism have shaped the organisational structure of Endeavour and its employees. The trips also prepare young people to cope with the conditions in a neoliberal labour market. The thesis investigates Endeavour's relationship to the state and argues non-governmental bodies are increasingly taking on state-like roles. Equally, as Endeavour has had to professionalise and become "business-like" to compete in the gap year market, it must patrol its charitable ethos to ensure the organisation carries the moral weight that attracts its patrons. The thesis also considers the techniques used during the trips abroad to discipline and organise young people as well as how these encourage friendships and social harmony in line with Endeavour's charitable goals. It explores the personal development techniques that form the basis of Endeavour's model of personhood and how these are used to develop individuals who are good at making transitory social relations and can thrive in neoliberal circumstances.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJeanette Edwards (Supervisor) & Nina Schiller (Supervisor)


  • charity
  • personhood
  • neoliberalism
  • anthropology of organisations

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