Mobile students and newly performed spaces: mapping complexities and shifts in social capital actor-networks

Salomão Filho, Alfredo (2017) Mobile students and newly performed spaces: mapping complexities and shifts in social capital actor-networks.


This philosophically oriented thesis engages with the growing and multi-faceted phenomenon of global student mobility and the forms of capital which underpin,are changed by and, in some form, evolve from these experiences. Drawing on Actor-Network Theory, the practices and experiences of Brazilian students – and their shifts in social capital as they embark on their journey to Ireland – are at the core of the analysis. The focus is on the description of strategies deployed by the students to enrol and mobilise other actors, therefore extending their actor-networks. The investigation continues by tracing the heterogeneous associations that assemble the Irish international education policy strategy in light of its agentic capacity to enact realities in a particular way. The task of closely “following the actors”, whether human or non-human, allows the emergence of a hybrid discussion between scholarly enquiry and empirical study, where ontological disquietudes are favoured over epistemological rules. This thesis falls into an ontological debate on the consequences of an encounter between Actor-Network Theory, international education realities, and the idea of social capital. In this, all the actors involved – primary and secondary data, and researcher – are seen as entities performing a series of associations in the same plane of immanence, rejecting a priori categorisations established by Cartesian modes of knowledge production.

In electing case study as a research methodology, this study was brought into being by assembling in-depth interviews, documentary analysis, and reflective diaries as research methods. The fluid concept of translation was used to describe the socio-material practices of students, policy, and their associations; framing the often paradoxical ways realities are enacted. Actor-Network Theory’s artifices –
that favour the craft of unfamiliar theoretical repertoires – generated the concept of “social capital actor-networks”. This hybrid theoretical construct illuminates how human and non-human entities’ singular and precarious processes of
mobilisation are performed until some form of ontological security is achieved via alliances. This thesis demonstrates how a relational philosophical sensibility can flourish as it concomitantly explores and brings into existence previously unknown international education realities.

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