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Needing to be 'in the know': strategies of subordination used by 10-11 year-old schoolboys

By Jon Swain


It is important for educators to understand the tactics used in subordination between young people if they are going to take effective measures to counter them in their pedagogical practice. This paper explores strategies used by school boys aged 10-11 to subordinate and position boys at the bottom of the pupil hierarchy. The findings are based on data gathered from a year long empirical study (between 1998 and 1999) set in three UK junior schools which were differentiated by the social characteristics of their intake. The research emphasises the role of the body in the construction of masculinity. The hegemonic, or most idealised, form of masculinity at each school was constructed around activity and, in particular, various forms of embodied physicality/athleticism (exemplified through skill, strength, fitness and speed), and boys who did not wish to, or who were unable to, use these resources generally found themselves marginalised and/or subordinated. Many of the subordinated forms were symbolically assimilated to femininity, and the paper proposes that the main strategies of subordination can be summarised under the generic heading of ‘difference’. The final section discusses the pervasive use of homophobia, and concludes that it should be conceptualised in terms of gender as well as sex

Year: 2003
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