Between Success and Dislocation. The experience of long-range upward mobility in contemporary Chile
Dr Sam Friedman (Department of Sociology) and Professor Mike Savage (Department of Sociology and International Inequalities Institute)
Social Mobility and Inequality; Cultural Sociology; Political Economy. Malik's research investigates the experience of upward social mobility in contemporary Chilean society. Malik holds a MSc in Governance of Risks and Resources from Heidelberg University, and a BA in Sociology from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
The aim of my doctoral research is to understand the experience of upwardly mobile people coming from working-class backgrounds and reaching high-status occupations in contemporary Chilean society. Chile is a highly unequal country in one of the most unequal regions of the world. But contradicting the conventional knowledge upon the inequality/mobility association, Chilean society combines high income inequality with elevated levels of occupational mobility. Although there is a large literature examining the increasing size of the middle-classes and different processes of upward mobility, there is a striking absence of studies specifically analysing upward trajectories into the upper echelons of Chilean society. My research project seeks to address this gap in the existing literature.
Engaging primarily with the theoretical frameworks developed by Pierre Bourdieu and Michèle Lamont, I inductively examine the experience of socially mobile people coming from lower classes and reaching the top professional class after attending Chile’s top universities: lawyers, medical doctors and engineers. It is this very specific type of long-range upward trajectory and how upwardly mobile individuals make sense of their experience over their life-course which is the main focus of this study.
My empirical findings are informed by the fieldwork I conducted from August 2017 to August 2018 in Santiago, Chile. This has involved 60 interviews with long-range socially mobile individuals in the three elite occupations mentioned above and conducting participant observation with 3 specific informants with their families of origin. With them I have explored the influence of class and gender over their life-course: their family past and expectations, their school trajectories, university and work pathways, as well as their residential choices, the schooling for their children and intimate lives as adults.