The Everyday Lives of Men: An Ethnographic Investigation of Young Adult Male Identity

Gill, Peter ORCID: 0000-0001-7772-4849 (2008) The Everyday Lives of Men: An Ethnographic Investigation of Young Adult Male Identity. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


There has been increasing social debate in recent times surrounding men’s identities, men’s health and wellbeing, and men’s place within contemporary western society. The purpose of this thesis was to contribute to new knowledge of these issues through an ethnographic exploration of two small sub-cultures of young adults. Utilising participant observation the researcher described in detail the ways in which masculinities were constructed in everyday life. The researcher spent over 2 years as a participant observer of a small group of men from a gymnasium in Melbourne, which followed a briefer but still illuminating period spent with a group of men from a small community in Australia. An ethnographic approach and a non-clinical and nondeviant sample were used to build in-depth knowledge from a neutral lens that did not assume an existing male deficit or crisis. The major findings revolved around the complexity of the male social networks, including the men’s need for belonging and in particular same sex friendships, the implicit and explicit rules of engagement, rational reflective discussion, and male engagement in their social worlds. In addition this thesis illuminated the salient masculine discourses for constructing and negotiating identities, which included heterosexual attraction, competition and social comparison, and biological predispositions and simplicity. This thesis also presents a dynamic psychosocial theory of male identity, and illustrates the relevance of this theory to the everyday lives of men. The men were shown to both collectively and individually negotiate and construct their identities by utilising the key processes of identification, sublimation, and reflection. By combining both phenomenological and discursive research methods the researcher was able to illustrate in everyday life the dialectic between the social and subjective elements of identity. The researcher also discusses the challenges he faced as an ethnographic fieldworker, and contributes to the development of improved understandings of the practical requirements of fieldwork, such as time, support, and flexibility.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 220000 Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts-General
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Keywords young male adults, male identity, social networks, Australia
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