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A participatory action research in a community psychology exploration of identity narratives of young Somali and Yemeni Muslim males living in Liverpool

Micallef, Anne-Marie (2012) A participatory action research in a community psychology exploration of identity narratives of young Somali and Yemeni Muslim males living in Liverpool. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This dissertation reports qualitative research aimed at developing an understanding of the meaning and significance of processes of social identity of young Somali and Yemeni British Muslim males living in Liverpool, UK. By taking a Community Psychology approach within a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project, the relevance of intergenerational community life stories in these males’ social and cultural worlds was explored. The role that PAR played in these social constructions of identities is also examined. An ethnographic methodology was employed. Identity was conceptualized in terms of the constructive, intervsubjective, inescapable relationship between the ‘self’ (I) and ‘other’ in a relational psychoanalytic framework. The different methods of collecting data included meal based narrative community workshops, local focus groups, semistructured interviews, the production of a magazine and a DVD. Reflexive analysis examined the researcher’s positioning as an inevitable influence in the research process. Thematic discourse analysis highlighted emergent partial, situated and relative themes of multiple versions of self, ‘performative’ masculinities and localization and appropriation of context through language and attachment of place. Main findings highlight narratives which maintained shared world views (mental models), preserved immediate categories such as religion, ethnicity and family values and presented identity contestation through ambivalent cognitive beliefs. Results were discussed in terms of psychoanalytical, post- modern, post- colonial and feminist thought. These experiences contribute to new understandings of how these young males reconcile their social identity conflicts, and emerge as ecologically valid ‘narratives in context,’ ‘performative’ but ‘routinized’ or ‘habitual’ practices within a ‘semi permeable, multi-strata’ model, in a ‘contextually based dynamic continuum’. The Participatory Action Research process supported participants’ and researcher’s active involvement and demonstrated the utility of the method for community psychology interventions as part of ‘new practical arrangements’ that can support implementation of similar innovative proposals in mainstream mental health services, as well as community engagement tools for participation and ‘conscientization’.

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