Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


In this thesis I draw on data from semi-structured interviews with eleven young people living in economically disadvantaged circumstances in Sydney, Australia to explore how these young people make a life and negotiate the discourses that operate to support and regulate them. Drawing on Foucault’s (1991) discussion of “governmentality” I develop a new analytical matrix (the matrix of regulated citizenship) to map the relationships between neo-liberal notions of individual responsible citizenship, institutional discourses of support and young people’s self practices. Through this mapping I describe the regulatory impacts of neo-liberal and institutional discourses on young people’s lives and demonstrate how forms of compliance become normalised and/or are contested through people’s self making. The matrix reflects the operation and interconnections between neo-liberal and institutional discourses of governance. It provides a more comprehensive framework for understanding young people’s lives and priorities beyond discussion of transition and risk, while also making available a new analytical tool for use in youth research.

Through my analysis I draw attention to the multiple ways that young people negotiate and construct notions of possibility and wellbeing within the context of ongoing structural constraint and increasing individualisation. In particular, I identify the critical interconnections for young people in the study between forms of self determination, social connection and finding “relevance” or a place where you feel you fit. It provides insights into how young people are represented and representing themselves within a neo-liberal society and the regulated context of support.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.