Ravn, S. (2019) ‘Imagining futures, imagining selves: a narrative approach to “risk” in young men’s lives’. Current Sociology, vol 67(7), pp. 1039–1055.
This article proposes a narrative approach to studying ‘risk’. A narrative approach moves away from common attempts to identify individuals ‘at risk’ of social problems on the basis of static characteristics – risks – that are assumed to have uniform ‘effects’ on individuals. Instead, a narrative approach to analysing ‘risk’ entails a focus on how people make consequential links between events in their lives. By focusing on three cases from a qualitative study in Denmark the article analyses how young people who have extensive experience with ‘risky’ practices – mainly drug use – make sense of these experiences. A particular focus on imagined futures produces two types of insights. First, by analysing how past and present experiences are seen by young people themselves as pointing towards their imagined futures, the article demonstrates how seemingly similar events (risk-taking experiences) can be inscribed in very different future narratives. Second, analysing the process of imagining futures illuminates how the participants see themselves in the world, to what extent they see themselves as agents in their own lives and if their futures are seen as within or beyond their control.