King's College London

Research portal

Diasporic Identities, Community Relationships and Post-16 Transitions: A qualitative study of the educational and career choice-making biographies of Somali young people in London.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Mohamed Abdi Obsiye

This thesis presents qualitative research on the construction of choice biographies of a group of Somali young people in London. It highlights the nature of intergenerational and community relationships in the Somali community and how this relates to the ways in which Somali young people engage with educational opportunities. It also discusses the role of the young people in mediating the resettlement process of their families in the diaspora, arguing in particular that they are the critical agents regarding the process of their parents' resettlement in the UK. Using semi-structured qualitative interviews, I have collected data from thirty young people and thirteen informants from this community's organisations. Through an exploration of the Somali community context of the young people's choices, it has emerged that while there has been a shift in orientation more towards permanent residency than a return to the country of origin, there are increasing concerns related to intergenerational social mobility.

My data show that young people's aspirations, expectations and choices involve more than 'rational' decision-making, for they are entangled with three interlinked phenomena: individual biographies; family and community processes and the prevailing structures of the host society. The thesis shows that it is the interaction of these dynamics that define choice/outcome discrepancies. I argue that the establishment of the Somali community in the UK is bound up with the re-enactment of pre-migration narratives and I show how community processes mediate the ways in which the younger generation of this community engage with the opportunity structures, and define their identities and sense of belonging in the host society. My data suggests that, despite concerns around intergenerational mobility, there is among these young people much optimism towards educational opportunities, and that education is widely considered as the only available avenue for social mobility. Moreover, it is argued that young people show strong agency in trying to write their choice biographies, but that their outcomes are ultimately governed by the hegemonic context of employment opportunities. The thesis argues that with maturation young people settle for a 'getting by' strategy and that to a large extent the agentic attitudes shown by them are an expression of a combination of immigrant optimism, adolescent optimism and strategies for managing the uncertainties that characterise contemporary youth transitions. I also suggest that through critical engagement with hegemonic structures these young people can find their niche between their own capabilities and probabilities in the labour market.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2016


Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454