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Constructions of gender identity among female residents in homes for adults with mental illness


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Seferović, Jelena. (2017). Constructions of gender identity among female residents in homes for adults with mental illness. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij etnologije i kulturne antropologije) [mentor Škokić, Tea and Šikić-Mićanović, Lynette].

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The construction of gender identity among women with mental disabilities who have been socially and emotionally deprived in the long-term and live in homes for mentally ill adults is thematised in this dissertation. The focus of this thesis was to analyse the gender roles of these women in four institutions taking into consideration the impact of the patriarchal system and the socialisation strategies of their families, educational aspects and material (im)possibilities. The shaping of gender identities among research participants was examined with regard to time and space contexts. When considering the construction of femininities, the dominant social and cultural heritage of thinking about the body and sexuality was considered and how this is also reflected in women’s perception of their own physicality and sexual practices. Since the research participants were mostly older women, issues of sexism and ageism, i.e., discrimination and marginalisation of women according to their age were also discussed in this work. Questioning the context within which their gender identity was constructed and subsequently shaped also included an analysis of their educational status, and how this in turn affected the (im)possibility of their (non)formal employment and financial (in)dependence. Particular attention was devoted to the playing out of particular gender roles such as the roles of wife and mother among the women involved in this research. The aforementioned aspect of gendered roles and behaviour are explored in relation to aspects of women’s mental health and psychiatric treatment. According to the findings obtained in this research, mental illness determined and compromised the realisation of these gender roles among research participants. The impossibility of realizing this type of femininity according to patriarchal norms is evident. Moreover, the symptoms of mental illness caused a double social discrimination and stigmatisation among research participants, which consequently had an impact on their self-perception and led to negative self-labelling, which is an issue that is problematised throughout the entire dissertation. Furthermore, the needs among research participants for permanent residence in these homes and processes of adaptation to institutional life are also explored in this thesis. Related to the performance of femininities within institutional frameworks, research interest focused on the examination of whether and how their gender influenced the formulation of their individual plans and programmes of rehabilitation in the home, that is, the selection and realisation of institutional activities. Daily routines among research participants were interpreted with respect to their activity in terms of organised activities and use of leisure time. Among other things, their affirmation in friendly and intimate relationships established in the home were also analysed. Finally, the perception of the future, or lack of perspective for the future were investigated. In the chapter on research methodology, a qualitative approach chosen for the implementation of fieldwork and interpretation of the collected material is discussed. Field research included semi-structured interviews with fifty-four residents in four homes for adults with mental illness. Participation in this study was in accordance with the code of ethics in scientific research and the Law on the Protection of Persons with Mental Disabilities. The process of obtaining consent to conduct research within the relevant institutions and to obtain written consent from the research participants and their guardians to participate are described in detail in this chapter. A section of this chapter also deals with the issues of ethical challenges in fieldwork. To understand the historical context of the homes’ activities and current perceptions of these homes, interviews with employees at these institutions were also conducted. Likewise, a number of residents’ children were also included in this study in which their perspectives gave insight into the experience of coexistence with research participants. Fieldwork also included archival research. Fragments of collected historical materials presented in certain chapters elucidate the circumstances of everyday life within which the gender identities of the interviewed women were shaped. It also served the purpose of understanding the homes’ names as well as the activities carried out these institutions in a better way. Within the framework of methodological considerations, the personal experience of fieldwork is discussed as well as the participant action aspect of this research. The data obtained in this study was investigated in relation to relevant cultural anthropological studies as well as theoretical assumptions in the domain of sociology and psychology, followed by social work and psychiatry. Gender identity and institutionalisation were analysed from the perspective of postmodern and feminist theory in which the concept of gender is understood as a fluid and changeable category. From the results of this anthropological research, the formation and shaping of gender identity among research participants were influenced by their socialisation, low levels of education, material shortages and financial instability. In addition, the realisation of femininity according to patriarchal norms was disrupted by symptoms of mental disabilities. As the women in this research did not entirely meet the criteria for the socially acceptable performance of femininity, they were subject to discrimination and stigmatisation by those in their immediate surroundings and the wider community, which was negatively reflected in their social, physical and emotional sense of self. In short, self-discrimination and self-marginalisation among the research participants was evident and inevitably intensified their social and emotional exclusion.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: rodni identitet, žene s duševnim smetnjama, socijalna isključenost, domovi za psihički bolesne odrasle osobe, (samo)diskriminacija, (samo)stigmatizacija.
Subjects: Ethnology and cultural anthropology
Departments: Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
Supervisor: Škokić, Tea and Šikić-Mićanović, Lynette
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij etnologije i kulturne antropologije
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 12:12
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2017 12:12

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