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Studying region, network, fluid, and fire in an educational programme working against social inequalities


Bauer, Itta; Landolt, Sara (2022). Studying region, network, fluid, and fire in an educational programme working against social inequalities. Geoforum, 136:11-20.

Abstract

Debates on the neoliberalization and privatization of education have recently contributed fresh impulses to the critical engagement of geographies of education, which is known for its longstanding interest in the reproduction of social inequalities. This paper furthers this engagement in two ways. First, it draws on an empirical study of a private, nonprofit preparatory programme that trains aspirational students from disadvantaged backgrounds for a highly selective entrance examination for state-funded secondary schools in Zurich, Switzerland. In doing so, the paper moves beyond the Anglophone pivot in the field, which has been a source of self-critique. Second, we take this empirical site a point from which to think through the study programme as an ‘object multiple’ that is engrained in Actor-Network Theory. Drawing on the four ontological metaphors of region, network, fluid, and fire, we assert that educational transitions serve as magnifying glasses which lay bare complex social effects of supplementary education on students, increasing social inequalities and subtle forms of conforming to and resisting of the neoliberalization of education and uncomfortable, yet thought-provoking aspects of discrimination. We conclude that the replication of white supremacy requires more reflection not only within a programme that was installed with the intent of supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds but also in our engagement as critical geographers within educational schemes.

Abstract

Debates on the neoliberalization and privatization of education have recently contributed fresh impulses to the critical engagement of geographies of education, which is known for its longstanding interest in the reproduction of social inequalities. This paper furthers this engagement in two ways. First, it draws on an empirical study of a private, nonprofit preparatory programme that trains aspirational students from disadvantaged backgrounds for a highly selective entrance examination for state-funded secondary schools in Zurich, Switzerland. In doing so, the paper moves beyond the Anglophone pivot in the field, which has been a source of self-critique. Second, we take this empirical site a point from which to think through the study programme as an ‘object multiple’ that is engrained in Actor-Network Theory. Drawing on the four ontological metaphors of region, network, fluid, and fire, we assert that educational transitions serve as magnifying glasses which lay bare complex social effects of supplementary education on students, increasing social inequalities and subtle forms of conforming to and resisting of the neoliberalization of education and uncomfortable, yet thought-provoking aspects of discrimination. We conclude that the replication of white supremacy requires more reflection not only within a programme that was installed with the intent of supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds but also in our engagement as critical geographers within educational schemes.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:Sociology and Political Science
Language:English
Date:1 November 2022
Deposited On:14 Oct 2022 13:09
Last Modified:27 Apr 2024 01:40
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0016-7185
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2022.08.004