Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten

Going places: Local settings and global horizons in young people’s education and work trajectories

  • Datum:
  • Plats: University Hall Room IV, Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Forsberg, Sara
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Kulturgeografiska institutionen
  • Kontaktperson: Forsberg, Sara
  • Disputation

This thesis draws on Bourdieu’s family of concepts of field, capital and habitus to analyse how young people’s different education and work trajectories are conceived, validated and realised across different socio-spatial contexts.

The recent trend for mass higher education and a growing policy focus on a knowledge-driven economy has created the expectation that everyone can enter a fulfilling and rewarding career. However, young people often experience discrepancies between expectations of social mobility and local or national labour market opportunities. This thesis draws on Bourdieu’s family of concepts of field, capital and habitus to analyse how young people’s different education and work trajectories are conceived, validated and realised across different socio-spatial contexts.

An interview-based study of how supranational organisations for education mediate and shape normative values of education revealed that a global agenda of education is embedded in a complex geography ranging from the individual to the global level. Within this, orders of dominance between nation-states are reinforced in the formulation and allocation of problems and solutions.

In a field study in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital in Kerala, India, young people’s dispositions towards mobility in the transition from education to work were analysed. The results revealed that young people’s future aspirations are shaped in a profound way by Kerala’s history of in- and out-migration. The study also identified differences within the middle class, where transnational capital distinguishes rather than unifies ‘Indian youth’.

A similar study on how young people in a sparsely populated area in northern Sweden negotiate their future education and work alternatives showed that the geographical marginality of the region influences perceptions of the future in divergent and sometimes contradictory ways. In a follow-up study of the wider region, individual-level registry data were used to explore post-graduation mobility in the five northern counties in Sweden. The results showed that grades, levels of education and choice of occupation or education type all impact the mobility of young adults within the highly-educated segment of the population, and in particular the choice of whether to stay or leave the home region.

Overall, this thesis shows how young people’s ambitions and trajectories are embedded in different socio-spatial contexts that enable them to adapt to, resist or benefit to varying degrees from global discourses of ‘successful adulthood’.