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Choices and Dilemmas: Reproduction of classed and gendered power relations through parental practices

Choices and Dilemmas: Reproduction of classed and gendered power relations through parental practices

Title: Choices and Dilemmas: Reproduction of classed and gendered power relations through parental practices
Author: Auðardóttir, Auður Magndís   orcid.org/0000-0002-3959-2731
Advisor: Berglind Rós Magnúsdóttir og Annadís Greta Rúdólfsdóttir
Date: 2021-04-15
Language: English
University/Institute: Háskóli Íslands
University of Iceland
School: Menntavísindasvið (HÍ)
School of education (UI)
Department: Deild menntunar og margbreytileika (HÍ)
Faculty of Education and Diversity (UI)
ISBN: 978-9935-9534-5-2
Subject: Menntun; Vald; Foreldrar; Grunnskólanemar; Þjóðfélagsstéttir; Doktorsritgerðir
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/4100

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Auðardóttir, A. M. (2021). Choices and dilemmas: Reproduction of classed and gendered power relations through parental practices [doktorsritgerð]. Háskóli Íslands.


This thesis aims to explore how power relations are reproduced through parental choices and practices in Iceland, with a focus on classed and gendered dimensions. The thesis can be viewed as two separate yet connected parts. In the first part, I ask how parental practices contribute to class reproduction in Iceland, with a focus on school and neighbourhood choices. In the second part, I ask how the “good and worthy” parent is defined, with a focus on gendered family life in pandemic times. Three different datasets are used to achieve this overarching aim. In my exploration of school and neighbourhood choices, I use sixteen interviews with middle- or upper-class parents, thereof one father and fifteen mothers. Alongside these interviews, I use descriptive data on the socio economic background of families within the Reykjavík metropolitan area and families of children in private schools. The third dataset consists of ninety-seven stories of parenthood in pandemic times, collected with story completion method. Together these different datasets make possible a nuanced and diverse analysis of the topic in question. I analyse the data through the theoretical lens of Bourdieu and neoliberal governmentality. In particular, I use Bourdieu’s theories of the reproduction of class to explore if and how the middle class uses symbolic capital to reproduce class distinction, thereby enhancing privilege for their children through school and neighbourhood choices. In addition, I make use of feminist and post structuralist understanding of power relations. In this way I analyse the gendered and classed factors as they are shaped by choices, feelings, dilemmas, actions, words and discourses. Three scientific articles form the backbone of this thesis. Article 1 explores private school choice, Article 2 explores neighbourhood choice, and Article 3 is dedicated to manifestations of neoliberal governmentalities in pandemic parenthood. Together these articles achieve the aim of this thesis. On the whole we see that parenthood is now regarded as a social space that is fraught with dangers and pitfalls. The danger of the parent making the wrong choice of school (Article 1), neighbourhood (Article 2) or daily habits (Article 3) is ever-present. This presents the risk of the parents’ symbolic capital not being transmitted to the children. The instability of the rules of the social space of parenthood fuels this risk, which in turn creates 6 anxiety for the parents in question – in particular the mothers. When this anxiety is triggered, it begets the self-governing by which the neoliberal governmentality operates. Parents (especially mothers) begin to question their every move and to self-govern their choices, habits and feelings. These processes are intimately linked to the construction of the fit mother who must choose wisely, be organised, optimistic and happy. This ethos and this subject positioning of mothers contribute to the reproduction of the gendered and classed power relations in Icelandic society.


© 2021, Auður Magndís Auðardóttir

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