Growing Up to Be ‘Kinds of Men’

What do you want to be when you finally grow up? In 2014, on a humid September morning, I boarded a crowded subway train to arrive at the New York City public high school where I would spend a whole year exploring this question. I wanted to find out how high school kids make sense of their futures, and to better understand how schooling socialises us to imagine the future in particular ways. I also wanted to know more about the barriers that get in the way of achieving these futures, and how young people manage to overcome these challenges (if they do). I didn’t know then that masculinity would also become one of the more important and evocative themes in the ethnography. Understanding experiences and articulations of masculinity became a way for me to consider how neoliberal framings of aspiration are used to make sense of the future for young people in school. This is what I write about in my recent chapter in the edited volume Masculinity and Aspiration in the Era of Neoliberal Education: International Perspectives.

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