Unemployment as social death: the lived experience of long-term unemployed men from an embodied perspective

Tracey, Helen Elizabeth (2021) Unemployment as social death: the lived experience of long-term unemployed men from an embodied perspective. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis explores how older men use metaphors to express what it is like to live through extreme periods of long-term unemployment. These metaphors are viewed from a phenomenological, embodied perspective, based on the theories of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, as an appeal to recognise lived experience that is not reflected in the dominant discourse which blames unemployed people for their own situation. This lived experience is evoked through a rich depth of experiential material drawn from one year’s ethnographic research with unemployed men undertaking supervised job search in a deprived area of Newcastle, England. Within this context, the central metaphor of death is understood to originate in disciplinary practices, which are interpreted via the theories of Michel Foucault as attempts to homogenise the long-term unemployed as deviant and thereby in need of control. The men’s stories of being treated as animals, meat, corpses and scum add to existing analyses of death as a metaphor for unemployment. Interpreting these metaphors by drawing upon the concept of social death provides an understanding of how the long-term unemployed are framed as being at the bottom of, or outside, the social order. Contrary to existing conceptions of social death as applying to only the most extreme circumstances, this thesis supports the men’s expressions as indicating social death as they are not recognised as worthy of reciprocal recognition from employers and Jobcentre workers. The men resist the negative character finalisation inherent in these practices through ‘fun’, which is understood via Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of carnivalesque as allowing them to temporarily tear down the social hierarchy by ridiculing the official perspective on unemployment. The significance of this study is that it addresses a recognised gap in research regarding jobseeker resistance.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: phenomenology, sociology, carnivalesque, resistance, metaphor
Subjects: L300 Sociology
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2021 09:01
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2021 09:15
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/47991

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