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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Troubled masculinity : exploring gender identity and risk-taking following the death of a friend Creighton, Genevieve Marie


This study investigates the ways in which young men cope with the loss of a male friend to an accidental death. Using critical social theory—including masculinities theory, Bourdieu’s theory of practice and Paechter’s gendered communities of practice as a guiding framework—the project looks at the differential ways that young men think about and reconstruct their masculine identity and future involvement in risk practices following their friend’s death. In addition to qualitative interviews, this study employs photo-elicitation, which serves to thicken participants’ narratives and capture the complexities of grief, masculinities and shared practices. Findings suggest that while socially dominant ideals of Western masculinities such as stoicism, invulnerability and instrumentality informed young men’s grief practices, there was diversity in the way that participants made meaning from the death of their friend and how it influenced their own orientation to the risk-taking practices that caused his death. This study found that young men’s habitus (socially acquired dispositions of mind and body), social space and primary community of practice were influential factors in movements away from, or continued adherence to these practices. Participants discussed the way that the presence of supportive individuals—particularly women—following their friend’s death facilitated a shift from a risk-orientated masculinity to one informed by responsibility and care for others. The photo-elicitation method used for this study underscored the usefulness of using arts-informed data collection methods to enrich a research conversation with young men. This research contributes to the body of scholarship on masculinities through an exploration of the nuanced constructions and expressions of gender after an experience of loss. Practically, it directs policy interventions toward a community-based approach underscoring the importance of understanding the unique masculine practices that exist at the local level.

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