Slippin’: A participatory and psychocultural study of inner city youth, masculinity, race and mental health.

Newitt, Simon Rhys (2013) Slippin’: A participatory and psychocultural study of inner city youth, masculinity, race and mental health. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This is a study of youth and urban marginality set in the inner city neighbourhood of St Pauls, Bristol. The study centres on and around a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project undertaken with seven young Black British men aged 15 to 24, over eighteen months in the period immediately before August 2011, when rioting dramatically broke out in several English metropolitan cores, including St Pauls. The research belongs to a literary tradition in the human sciences concerned with oppression and resistance, and draws from ideas across anthropology, sociology, psychology, psychoanalysis, and cultural and critical theory more generally. It is postmodern in orientation, but engages politically with the structural inequalities and economic exclusion that shape the young subjectivities at its ethnographic heart.

In its positionality, the study tests and extends theories of participation in spaces and categories of marginality under-represented in the existing literature. It also re-politicises mental health, setting in context the behaviours, emotional states, and structure of feeling experienced by a demographic of young men consistently over-represented in acute psychiatric and criminal justice settings. But because the research is dialectical enquiry by participatory ethics, this is as much a study of the oppressors as it is the oppressed, one concerned for the enduring capacity of ideology to insert itself into everyday social, professional and economic relations by various state technologies and interpersonal techniques of power.

The voices of the young men in this study de-stabilise our ideas of what and who is healthy and pathological, oppressor and oppressed. In so doing they lay an ethical charge of (in)justice at the door of the state, one that unites their mental health with discourses on social class, participation, citizenship and democracy. Indeed, though marginalised, these are young masculinities made in the image of neoliberalism, and their crystallising economic and psychocultural exclusion is evidence of a social polarisation that will increasingly threaten the basic social contract if left structurally untouched.

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