Paying attention to throwaway conversation
: a strategic ethnographic enquiry into how neoliberal governance secures teacher compliance.

  • Peter W Bannister

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


In this thesis, the author sets out to identify and explore the techniques and effects of power by which teacher resistance is reduced towards the performance of a neoliberal professional identity in the English state-funded secondary school. The author reviews the current literature to establish how the logic of the markets has become the accepted organising principle in secondary education before putting poststructuralism to work in order to trouble it. Firstly, drawing on Foucaultian theory, he makes the case that teacher gossip, as conduit for subjugated knowledge, opens the teacher-researcher to more robust insights into teacher identity work than is possible via more traditional means. Secondly, he claims that storying is an effective strategy to explore individuals’ deployment of gossip in relation to the spatial and discursive conditions that enable, constrain and/or provoke it; to this end he argues that a story is able to usefully house the contradictory thoughts and feelings of the research-participants, whilst simultaneously addressing potential ethical concerns through the application of fictionalisation devices. Finally, in an experiment that looks to demonstrate the affordance claims he has made, the author experiments with storying the gossip-data he has collected; the stories serve as an active enquiry into how the dominant neoliberal discourse circumscribes what is and what is not “sayable” in the English secondary school, interrogating aspects of the institutional culture that creates the conditions for gossip, as a site of resistance, to emerge in the first place. In the conclusion, the author suggests potential measures that teachers might take to counter the impact that the techniques and effects of power identified have on their professional subject formation.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJanet L Orchard (Supervisor)

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