The LGBT+ Pupil as the Abject: An Ethnographic Exploration of Subjectivity and Discourse in UK Secondary Schools
AuthorsClark, Natalie E.
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AbstractAccording to many scholars, schools are the last bastion of permitted homophobia (Beadle, 2009; Grew, 2008; as cited in Formby, 2013). Primarily using the theories of Foucault, Kristeva and Butler, the thesis uses critical theory as a means to both understand and critically analyse the construction of subjectivity within and throughout discourse in the hetero-/cis-normative institution, and how this related to the potential abjection of LGBT+ pupils. Whilst it is agreed in this thesis that LGBT+phobia is still widespread in both schools and wider society, it was found in this research that the impact of direct LGBT+phobic discrimination was less evident. Instead, the discursive spaces where LGBT+phobia had been silenced were filled with hetero-/cis-normative discourse. Concomitantly, the impact of LGBT+ invisibility, the silencing of positive discourse surrounding sexuality and the institutional rejection of performative LGBT+phobia without cultural or organisational change meant there remained a negative impact on LGBT+ young people, despite a reduction in visible LGBT+phobia (DePalma and Atkinson, 2006/2010). Through the use of short vignettes taken from a period of ethnographic research, I have used discursive reflexivity to offer an alternative discourse surrounding the LGBT+ pupil in the school. In a thesis preoccupied with language, the institutional denial of appropriate language, the lack of positive space for LGBT+ young people to construct their identity and the potential risk of abjection from the hetero-/cis-normative institution are all highlighted as points for discussion. Viewed through a critical theory lens, the exemplars used to illustrate these complex theories are chosen from 72 workshops undertaken in schools with Year Nine pupils over a the 2015 to 2016 academic year in the Merseyside region, and also from self-identified LGBT+ young people (also in Year Nine during the academic year 2015 to 2016), who were part of discussions in an LGBT+ Youth drop in based in Liverpool city centre. Intertwining academic analysis and philosophical reflection, the research finds that not only is the LGBT+ pupil abject in the school, but this abjection is threefold. It is enacted by the institution, the peer group and by the internalised LGBT+phobia of the abjected pupil. In the conclusion, it is reflected upon how the impact abjection from school continues to affect LGBT+ people into adulthood.
CitationClark, N. E. (2018). The LGBT+ Pupil as the Abject: An Ethnographic Exploration of Subjectivity and Discourse in UK Secondary Schools. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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