This paper reports on a recent study of aspirations for higher education by secondary school students from disadvantaged backgrounds in regional Australia. At the same time, it goes in search of explanations that transcend a Bourdieuian account of aspirations as produced by and reproductive of cultural histories and dominance, given the apparent inadequacy of these accounts in redressing disadvantage. To this end the authors distinguish between historicising and spatialising aspirations, taking up Appadurai’s notion of navigational capacity as a way of advancing greater agency for disadvantaged groups. Data from the research inform the analysis, including the mediation of students’ desired futures by their perception of what is possible given their differentiated locations and access to resources. It is concluded that while this spatial turn in theorising aspiration has potential for changing the terms of recognition internal to disadvantaged communities, there remain structural limits on change ‘from below’.
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