University of Limerick
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Liminal masculinity: men’s narratives of change and stability in transitions through university and beyond

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posted on 2023-02-20, 12:32 authored by Joseph Hans Firnhaber
Men’s lives are characterized by life transitions that can be variously ‘liminal;’ potentially disruptive to men’s selves and identities. Further, liminality may challenge some masculine norms, like invulnerability. This begs the question of how men respond to liminality; when is change a problem for men, and how so? In this thesis, I investigated ways that men’s self concept as stable or changing is shaped by masculine norms in Ireland. In three interview studies I sought to answer two research questions: (1) how men practice and manage personal change/stability, and (2) what kinds of men they describe becoming or remaining. Using discursive and narrative analysis, I identified three self-construction strategies that men used to engage with liminality in their life stories. In study 1, men constructed stable and authentic selves against a backdrop of environmental change. In study 2, explicitly normative men constructed themselves as succeeding at both young adulthood and masculinity when asked to tell stories about change. In study 3, less normative men constructed intersectional identities and told stories of self-directed growth through challenging life transitions. Across these three studies, I identified that through these men’s claims of self-stability, they constructed invulnerability to change, and through their claims of self-directed change constructed more organic and growing selves. In both cases, these men practiced personal change by locating liminality far away from their current selves. While bound by psychological interview methods, Irish masculine norms, and broader politics of identity, these findings have important implications for future efforts to synthesize liminality and intersectionality theories in order to expand our understanding of self and identity in contexts of complex social change.



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Ronni Michelle Greenwood

Second supervisor

Michael Quayle





Department or School

  • Psychology

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