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Article

Formal education supports various goals related to the transmission of a society’s values, from teaching basic literacy to instilling moral virtues. Although schools serve as places of assimilation and socialization into dominant norms, schools are also spaces where young people experiment with their own ideals and self-expressions. Researchers interested in how young people learn to inhabit gendered roles or “positions” highlight the significant role that schooling plays in gender subjectification. Put simply, gender subjectification is the process by which one becomes recognizable to oneself (and to others) as a gendered subject. Schools are key institutions where individuals learn to negotiate their places in society and to consider possible futures. Through interacting with one another and with the overt and hidden curricula in school, as well as with various social structures outside school, individuals are shaped by various discourses that involve desires, beliefs, rituals, policies, and practices. Education research focusing on gender subjectification has explored the mechanisms by which schools shape and reproduce, for example, the gendered knowledge that young people come to internalize and take up as “normal” or acceptable for themselves and for others, as well as what they resist or reject. As with all social institutions, a school is subject to and influenced by various communications that circulate and intersect inside and outside the school walls. These discourses include but are not limited to “official” communications such as laws, policies, and state- or district-sanctioned curriculum materials, various conversations circulating among media and fora, and conversations from peer groups, the home, and community groups. From these diverse and often contradictory sets of discourses, schools privilege and disseminate their own “discursive selections” concerning gender. These selections work on and through students to shape possibilities as well as place constraints on not only how students understand themselves as gendered subjects but also how they come to those understandings. Studies investigating education and gender suggest that inequities and inequalities often begin in early schooling and have long-lasting implications both inside and outside schools. School and classroom discourses tend to privilege hegemonic (meaning dominant and normative) notions of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality while silencing, punishing, and, in some cases, even criminalizing differences. Research concerned with gender subjectification and school has addressed numerous significant questions such as: What are the gendered landscapes of schooling, and how do individuals experience those landscapes? What are the everyday discourses and practices of schooling (both formal and informal) that work on how gender gets “done,” and how do these aspects interact and function? How does school impose constraints on, as well as offer possibilities for, gender subjectivity, when institutional contexts that shape subjectivities are also in motion? Ultimately, these questions concern the role that schooling has in shaping how individuals think about and “do” selfhood. In general, critical studies of gender and subjectification gesture toward hope and possibilities for more equality, more consensuality, and more inclusivity of individual differences.

Article

Marnina Gonick and Judith Conrads

Gender and sexuality are key aspects of identity that intersect with other social categories such as race, class, ethnicity, and ability to shape life experiences. While these forces are at work throughout one’s lifetime, adolescence is a particularly important time of discovery, negotiation, and resistance. Most young people in Western countries spend an enormous amount of time in schools, grouped together by age with others from their communities, including teachers and other school personnel. Schools are, therefore, important sites of sociality where young people are faced with the social and power dynamics of belonging, inclusion, and exclusion. The forms these processes take include forming friendships and romantic relationships as well as bullying and violence. Gender and sexuality are central to how these dynamics play out. Young people who do not conform to dominant binary versions of gendered expressions of femininity and masculinity as well as heterosexuality often encounter barriers to inclusion and recognition. Social relations among youth are central, but school curriculum, policies, teacher-student interactions, and how schools are physically organized all contribute to the shape that gender and sexuality will take in a particular context or location. Beyond the official curriculum, schools are sites where an unofficial curriculum of the body, gender performance, and gendered and sexed relations is learned through interactions with others and through encounters with powerful regimes of normativity. Young people are social agents who are actively involved in negotiating their gendered and sexed identities. However, they do so within the constraints of the discourses available to them to make meaning of their experience.

Article

The concept of bildung plays a central role in the history of European philosophy of education. Broadly speaking, the concept refers to the interplay between cultural, personal, and educational processes whose concrete contents vary with time and place but with an enduring interest in the self-formation of the subject. From the paideia of Greek antiquity via European modernization and beyond, bildung has been viewed as the true goal of educational processes, more essential than the fostering of skills and competences. Bildung ideals vary with cultural and social imaginaries. Along with the general bildung ideals that exist in all cultures, a more emphatic interest in the question of bildung—what it means and what it ought to mean—can be traced in the Graeco-Western tradition. In various languages and forms, notably as paideia, Bildung, and danning, this self-reflexive and sometimes contested notion can be seen as a catalyst for these societies’ capacity for self-reflection. Three historical phases of bildung theory stand out in this respect: the Greek polis democracy, 508–322 bce, Germany in the period 1770–1830, and the Scandinavian nation-building period, 1850–1900. In these very different historical contexts, the question of bildung, what it means, and what it ought to mean, can be seen to have stimulated self-reflection and self-formation at the individual, sociohistorical, and institutional levels of the societies in question. This complexity of the concept of bildung and its related paradoxes makes it an enduring source of philosophical and practical inquiry, as well as a focus point for social transformation.