The car, the hammer and the cables under the tables: Intersecting masculinities and social class in a Swiss vocational school
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Based on ethnographic material, this article explores how three groups of apprentices negotiate masculinities in the specific setting of a male-dominated vocational school in Switzerland dedicated to the building trades. We use an intersectional and relational perspective to highlight how the institutional setting of the school – mirroring wider social hierarchies – influences these young men’s identity work. The apprentices use three discursive dichotomies: manual vs. mental work; proud heterosexuality vs. homosexuality; and adulthood vs. childhood. However, the three different groups employ the dichotomies differently depending on their position in the school’s internal hierarchies, based on their educational path, the trade they are learning and the corresponding prestige. The article illuminates the micro-processes through which existing hierarchies are internalised within an institution. It further discusses how the school’s internal differentiations and the staff’s discourses and behaviours contribute to the (re)production of specific classed masculinities, critically assessing the role of the Swiss educational system in the reproduction of social inequalities.
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