This thesis deals with the phenomenon of distrust and trust between young men with minority ethnic backgrounds and public sector employees at the face-to-face level of interaction. The focus is on trust and distrust which can be understood as cultural resources – a valuable approach to researching t…
This thesis deals with the phenomenon of distrust and trust between young men with minority ethnic backgrounds and public sector employees at the face-to-face level of interaction. The focus is on trust and distrust which can be understood as cultural resources – a valuable approach to researching trust and distrust largely under-represented in the trust literature. A common source of conflict is often a lack of confidence or distrust in the authorities; therefore, winning the confidence of minority ethnic groups in these communities is essential to easing tensions, along with reducing civil unrest, antisocial behaviour, crime and unnecessary public spending.
The purpose of this in-depth study, based on nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in and around two residential housing estates, is to contribute towards understanding the microprocesses at play in distrust and trust building processes between public sector employees and young men with minority ethnic backgrounds, an under-researched and often misunderstood area. The central focus is on the relationship between the young men with minority ethnic backgrounds, a team of youth workers, a job consultant and a police officer. This study explores the relationships from the perspectives of some of the young men and the aforementioned professionals, thus exploring the relationship from both sides of the coin.
The thesis draws primarily on data gathered during fieldwork i.e. in-depth and ethnographic interviews, observations and artefacts such as media and local authority reports. In addition to the empirical material, the study explores a key governmental policy to investigate how the (previous) government names and frames people with minority ethnic backgrounds. Analysing this policy helps to locate the fieldwork and interactants into the wider cultural and structural context, while at the same time, contributes towards explaining why some local authority actors use certain frames and not others when talking about the young men with minority ethnic backgrounds. A number of research questions have guided the process which revolves around the experiences of the young men with minority ethnic backgrounds and the aforementioned professionals. The problem formulation is: How can trust (and distrust) be understood as a cultural resource and what are the implications for public sector employees who work with young men with minority ethnic backgrounds in the community?
The thesis offers a discussion of the theoretical framework, methodological and ethical considerations along with issues pertaining to reliability and validity. Thereafter follow five
analytical sections, the first of which offers a unique insight into the dynamics and mechanisms at play when a researcher (outsider) first enters a field setting. Amongst other methodological issues, this chapter presents a theoretical discussion about the significance of trust in relation to the researcher entering the field. Subsequently, the thesis reports finding one: Governmental Distrust Frames, which derives from analysing the aforementioned key government policy document. Next the thesis reports finding two: local authority institutionalised distrust frames. Through focusing on the ethnographic, this section explores the attitudes of some local authority actors towards a group of young men with minority ethnic backgrounds who reside in and hang out in a local residential housing estate.
The main focus of this chapter is on the relationship between a team of youth workers and the young men, which can be described best as highly distrustful. Following this, the thesis reports finding three: trust and distrust as cultural frames or resources. The fieldwork data suggest that the young men with minority ethnic backgrounds use trust and distrust as cultural frames (resources) to organise their relationships with public sector employees. During this process, they rely upon a number of cultural tools such as injustice and justice to create both distrust and trust frames around individual employees. The last analytical chapter reports finding four: negotiating cultural frames. The last part of the chapter looks closer at the relationship between the young men with minority ethnic backgrounds, the job consultant and the police officer to consider how they negotiate cultural frames to achieve and maintain trust. The final chapter sets out the conclusions and implications for theory, research and practice and proposes some recommendations for practice based on the findings and conclusions of the study. This chapter outlines the overall contributions of the thesis along with the limitations and recommendations for future research.
Ethnographic field work; Street level; Qualitative study; Trust