Jodie Pennacchia
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Producing the academy school
Ethnography, Foucault and the study of policy production
in Inside the English education lab
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This chapter presents the intertwining of ethnography and Foucault’s thinking tools as a methodology for studying the academies policy. Drawing on ethnographic research in an underperforming school that had recently become an academy (Eastbank Academy), the chapter explores relationship(s) between Foucault’s work and ethnographic approaches in order to make three arguments about how the academies policy is produced. First, this methodology facilitates analysis of the complex, multi-level and multi-modal nature of policy, enabling an account of the linguistic, material, spatial and pedagogical shaping of the academy school. Second, this methodological pairing shapes an analysis that moves beyond the binaries of compliance and resistance to explicate the different and contradictory ways school stakeholders engage with the academies policy. Third, the chapter discusses the importance of situated study for understanding oppressive arrangements, drawing on data extracts to illustrate the unjust potential of the production of academy status for some young people. Through the chapter this methodological combination is presented as capable of capturing the complexity of policy production, demonstrating how it informed the analysis of the contradictory ways that ‘change’ was present and presented in Eastbank Academy, why these contradictions existed, and their effects. Meanwhile, the potential incongruences of this methodological pairing – for example, the historically different positionings of power and the subject in ethnographic approaches and Foucault’s work – are ventured not as issues to be resolved but as points to be interrogated as a source of new possibilities for policy analysis.

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Inside the English education lab

critical qualitative and ethnographic perspectives on the academies experiment


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