Understanding the career paths and travel biographies of elites

  "My PhD thesis seeks to analyse the making of mobilities in Washington D.C. as well as elite reproduction through participation in study-internship programmes in Washington D.C. (so called Washington Semester Programmes). I will focus on highly qualified individuals who seek careers in the NGO-sector (NGO = Non Governmental Organisation). These young elites seek to acquire transnational or cosmopolitan capital, as this might offer “a competitive edge in globalising social arenas” (Munk 2009; Weenink 2008; Nylander and Ahn 2013 cited in Weenink, 2014, p. 112). This analysis of young elites, trained in the global city Washington D.C., will offer new perspectives on travel biographies, career development and competition for jobs and influence in the NGO-sector.
In the mobilities paradigm, which I use as one of my main theoretical assumptions, places are not seen as fixed objects, they are perceived as mobile and also as deeply connected to human performances. Places do not stand still but change and are constantly transformed through this array of movements. Furthermore, human and non-human agents (such as images, stories, objects such as souvenirs) make a place mobile (Urry, 2007, p. 269). Thus, Washington D.C. will be analysed as a mobile space. The reciprocal relation between the image of Washington D.C. (as a hub of power, internationality and liberalism) and incoming students looking for transnational and cosmopolitan capital will be analysed. A closer look will be taken at the movements of these young individuals; before, while and after participation in the Washington Semester Programmes. What images of Washington D.C. do these young elites reproduce and transport with them? Does a city like Washington D.C. still need to brand its identity and if so how is this place branding done?
With the help of in-depth interviews, the gathered data will be utilized to analyse whether participation in these Washington D.C. based semester programmes might accelerate the careers of young individuals who want to work in the NGO-sector. Focusing on these travel biographies will help elucidating what agendas and images define the lives of these young elites. How do they shape their own careers and the social spaces in which they act? And more importantly: which actors are interested in the reproduction of elites in the NGO-sector? How are they reproduced? And who else benefits from the reproduction of elites in the NGO-sector?


  • Dates:

    2016 to date

  • Qualification:

    Doctorate (PhD)

Project Team