UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What keeps me here : gendered and generational perspectives on rural life and leaving in an Irish fishing locale Donkersloot, Rachel


At the most fundamental level, this dissertation aims to promote a better understanding of rural youth emigration through consideration of the importance of ‘place’ in young people’s lives and life choices. Within this over-arching aim, I draw important linkages between the gendered dimensions of rural youth experience and gender disparities in patterns of rural youth out-migration. The out-migration of young people from rural regions is a selective and highly gendered process suggesting considerable differentiation in the way young men and women identify with and experience rural life. Based in the coastal community of Killybegs in the southwest corner of County Donegal, Ireland, this study examines gender differences in the ways in which local youth perceive, experience, and cope with life at home. This includes decisions to emigrate. Central to this endeavor is a theory of social positioning and recognition of the ways in which (social, cultural and symbolic) capital is embodied, gendered and context specific. An underlying objective of this research is to confront discourse which locates ‘stayers’ as a homogenous group of underachievers. To do this I demonstrate the importance of situating young people’s migration decisions in the context of their social groups and locations. I situate young people’s life-paths, not against a standardized set of push-pull factors, but within the everyday encounters and contexts of their own subjective experiences of place. I pay particular attention to the ways in which young people’s migration (and education) choices are differentially shaped by factors such as family norms, resources and values. Grounded in a conceptual framework informed by political economy, gender studies, migration studies and rural studies, this study addresses key questions regarding: 1) gender differences in young people’s perceptions and experiences of ‘staying on’ and leaving, 2) how ‘place’ influences migration decisions differently for young men and women, 3) how and why the social characteristics of migrants and non-migrants, including educational qualifications and social-class background, differ, and 4) how decisions to migrate are made, including weight of parental expectation and how youth emigration, and its local implications, are perceived by the sending community of teachers, parents and peers.

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