The Chameleonisation of Masculinity: Jimmy’s Multiple Performances of a Working-Class Self.

Michael Rhys Morgan Ward


In this paper, drawing on ethnographic observations and using the case study of one working-class young man called Jimmy, I explore how multiple masculinities are displayed through a process of chameleonisation. Through outlining Jimmy’s transitions through post-compulsory education and his different social and cultural spaces, I illustrate the ways which he tries to conduct multiple performances of self. I show that in a variety of settings, with different actors and within different social interactions, Jimmy navigates between numerous conflicts in order to try and achieve both academically, with aspirations of processing into higher education and also as a successful athlete. These processes are simultaneously met with demands to achieve a socially valued form of masculinity that has been shaped by the former industrial heritage of the region. This paper argues that young working-class men are not locked into displaying just one performance of masculinity, but have the agency to switch between performances and to adopt multiple identities. However, this process which I term chameleonisation, is fraught with difficulties. This process illustrates how we must begin to think about young men having the ability to display multiple masculinities at various times, and are therefore not the barer of one all-encompassing masculinity that is always, and everywhere, the same. This process can be especially challenging for young working-class men who live in areas of economic change and want to be successful across different areas of their lives.


Young masculinity, class, heritage, performance, place, sport

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MSC - Masculinities and social change | ISSN: 2014-3605

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