Making good on migration : Exploring narratives of aspiration and imagined futures with students from migrant backgrounds

PhD Thesis

Mangion, A.. (2024). Making good on migration : Exploring narratives of aspiration and imagined futures with students from migrant backgrounds [PhD Thesis]. Australian Catholic University School of Education
AuthorsMangion, A.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis explores the post-school aspirations of migrant-background students. It locates itself among a broadening literature that provides a critical sociological examination of the politics of aspiration, complicating notions of ‘raising’ aspirations and helping to reimagine how the processes of aspiring might be understood and provides greater focus to the role of migration and constructions of ethnicity in contemporary Australia. The research presented is based on focus groups conducted with students, and interviews with parents, from three community language schools across metropolitan Sydney as they move through Years 8 and 9. I examine how students story their experiences and the experiences of others to envisage their future selves. In so doing, the research also considers how aspirations for study and work interact with other hopes, desires, and interests.
To frame this, I utilise Narrative Inquiry and draw together several conceptual tools. Among these is Appadurai’s conceptualisation of aspirations as a ‘cultural capacity’ formed “in interaction and in the thick of social life” (Appadurai, 2004, p. 67). I also consider conceptualisations of migrancy, temporality, and affect (Ahmed, 1999, 2010; Ahmed et al., 2003; Appadurai, 1996, 2003; Boccagni, 2017a; de Certeau, 1984).
Through this process, the research raises several important insights, and theoretical and policy implications. Students’ aspirations are supported by ‘migration narratives’ that are deployed to give purpose to the stories of family movement and resettlement. They signpost actions and experiences that could be used by students in their efforts to attain their aspirations. These images of the future are broad and complex, and students signal a range of interests and hopes. While they are supported by migration narratives, students’ social and material contexts produce varying navigational capacities with which to draw linkages between their aspirations and possible steps required for their attainment. In related ways however, both migration narratives and navigational capacities become implicated in the contemporary political of aspiration, with students affectively and performatively evaluating themselves against the neoliberal archetype of the ‘good’ student: enterprising, future-oriented, self-directed. Through its methodology and conceptual framing, the thematic analysis of stories foregrounds the role of social, political, and historical contexts on contemporary conditions and imagined futures, broadening our understanding of how students from migrant background come to aspire.

KeywordsAspirations; Education; Migration Narratives; Ethnicity; Multiculturalism; Schools; Student Identities
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range1-386
Final version
File Access Level
Supplementary Files (Layperson Summary)
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online02 Jul 2024
Publication process dates
Accepted12 Jun 2024
Deposited03 Jul 2024
Additional information

This work © 2024, Antoine Mangion.

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