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Regulatory Discourses in Education

A Lacanian perspective

Tony Brown, Dennis Atkinson and Janice England

This book employs Lacanian psychoanalysis to develop new ways of understanding educational domains. It analyses events, practices and policies that occur in school classrooms, teacher education and higher-degree studies including educational research. It provides an accessible introduction, description and analysis of those aspects of Lacan’s work concerned with language, identity and subjectivity directly relevant to the field of education.
Regulative discourses and practices in education are a central concern and the authors demonstrate how Lacanian theory empowers our understanding of how such discourses are instrumental in forming teacher and researcher identities. The book also shows how regulatory practices and discourses are relevant to research methodologies that arise in the field of action research in education.

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Part One Introduction 9

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Part One Introduction Chapter One Psychoanalysis and Education Pathology acquaints us with a great many conditions in which the boundary between the ego and the external world becomes uncertain or the borderlines are actually wrongly drawn. There are cases in which parts of a person’s body, indeed parts of his mental life – perceptions, thoughts, feelings – seem alien, divorced from the ego, and others in which he attributes to the external world what has clearly arisen in the ego and ought to be recognised by it. Hence, even the sense of self is subject to disturbances, and the limits of the self are not constant (Freud, 2002, p. 5). In recent years psychoanalysis has begun to provide a vibrant theoretical resource for educational researchers to shed new light on practices of teaching and learning and also to form a critique of educational policies. This has been made possible through the ways in which psychoanalytical discourses understand the individual as both a conscious, rational subject and as an unconscious subject whose desires and fantasies form a significant aspect of being. And, importantly, the individual is an entity that is defined relationally, whose speech predicates a position and someone else who is listening. When these ideas of the subject are applied to processes of teaching and learning then the ways in which we understand these processes are expanded and this can have significant impact on how teachers might respond to learners or how, for example, teachers and learners are conceived within curriculum discourses....

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