Why ‘the place of aspirations’?

I originally set up this blog as a space in which to share my thoughts, as they emerge, about a small research project I was working on at the time.  The project was called ‘The Place of Aspirations: emotional geographies of young people’s ambitions for their adult lives‘.  It was funded by a Small Research Grant from the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

The main objectives of this project were:

  • to analyse how policy discourses about young people’s ‘aspirations’ explicitly or implicity relate to space and place
  • to examine how aspiration and ambition are expressed as spatial practices. 
  • to explore what other emotions and affects attach themselves to thinking about (and doing) ‘aspiration’

The project involved a critical evaluation of the policy documents driving widening participation policy (and related interventions in young people’s lives) in a UK context; as well as interviews with widening participation practitioners working in local education sectors in inner London and the East Midlands.  A small number of focus group workshops were carried out with current undergraduates, who had participated in ‘aspiration raising’ activities organised by their schools, universities and local Aimhigher partnerships.

The research sought to broaden understandings of the emotional consequences of widening partcipation policy interventions.  As a result, this work contributes to, and extends, theoretical debates at the intersections of geographies of education, geographies of childhood, and emotional/affective geographies.  In carrying out this project, I explored how these discrete research agendas could be pushed further theoretically, in dialogue with each other, whilst also producing findings that could contribute to policy development and widening participation practice.

Although the RGS small grant officially ended in 2009, I continue to write and think about these issues.  This blog charts the development of my ideas in this area.


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