Social Mobility and Aspirations: Young Colombians in Cartagena Navigating Opportunities, Spaces and Futures

Marzi, Sonja (2016) Social Mobility and Aspirations: Young Colombians in Cartagena Navigating Opportunities, Spaces and Futures. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The role of young people’s aspirations to achieve upward social mobility, social mobility
being defined as people’s upward or downward movement in relation to others within the
same society with respect to status or social class (Gough, 2008, Azevedo and Bouiilon,
2010), has been of increasing interest in international development. Especially for young
people of disadvantaged social backgrounds, high aspirations are perceived as the main
driver for future enhanced social conditions (Appadurai, 2004). With a particular focus on
educational and occupational aspirations, young people are encouraged to aim for higher
education and higher occupational outcomes to achieve upward social mobility (Kintrea et
al., 2015). However this discourse shifts the responsibility of achieving upward social
mobility and for being successful adults in the future, on to young people themselves,
promoting social mobility as an individualised obligation (Brown, 2011, Spohrer, 2011). Yet
social mobility and corresponding aspirations are not attained independently of young
people’s social context. In order to enhance their social mobility they need to acquire the
necessary social and cultural capitals and have access to adequate opportunities within
their social and physical environment to navigate themselves towards their aspirations.
Informed by ethnographic and participatory fieldwork, this thesis explores young
Colombians’ (age 15-22) aspirations for social mobility in Cartagena and adds to the
critique of the increasingly powerful discourse about the need to enhance disadvantaged
young people’s aspirations in order to achieve upward social mobility (cf. Kintrea et al.,
2015). Cartagena is described as a city of many realities, made up of ‘rich’ and ‘poor’
neighbourhoods, offering unequal opportunities to its residents. This stratification is one
legacy of a long history of slavery and colonialism. I present young Cartagenians’
aspirations and what they perceive as drivers and constraints of social mobility. Drawing
upon the concepts of habitus, and social and cultural capital, I analyse the importance of
how young Cartagenians’ sense of belonging to poorer neighbourhoods influences their
opportunities to achieve upward social mobility. This research contributes to the
knowledge of young people’s attempts to formulate aspirations and navigate their way
towards these within a post-colonial setting in the global South from a qualitative research
perspective. It explores the intersecting relationships between aspirations, belonging,
spatial and social mobility, and opportunity structures accessible to young Cartageneros.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Global Development (formerly School of International Development)
Depositing User: Users 2259 not found.
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2016 12:10
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2016 12:10


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