Four tragedies and a happy ending – autobiographical interpretations of unemployment
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionJournal of Youth Studies. 2014, 17 (10), 1395-1410. 10.1080/13676261.2014.933192
This article explores individuals' experience of unemployment by studying five historical autobiographical stories. A source of life-stories from the competition ‘Write your life’ in 1989 was read through in search of stories about unemployment. Four of the stories were of struggling for work inclusion, while one story was added as a contrast to the others. The latter narrator managed to build a career in spite of a poor starting point in life. Using a narrative approach, we sought to unravel the individuals' meaning constructions and identity formations. What we found was that failed careers apparently demand explanations and externalizations. Further, it became clear that shame appeared more harmful to these individuals than economic loss, the shame of not having contributed in working life and shown their capacity. Over time, this shame seems to lead to loss of self-esteem and health. The long-term struggle for work inclusion experienced by the four unemployed seems to have been replaced by a project of self-defence, a lonely struggle for relief/vindication, so important to them that it appears as the main theme in their life-stories.