Buchardt, Mette. Identitetspolitik i klasserummet: ‘Religion’ og ‘kultur’ som viden og social klassifikation. Studier i et praktiseret skolefag. Dissertation. University of Copenhagen, 2008.
This dissertation is a study of classroom curriculum that applies a combination of the sociology of education and the sociology of knowledge. More specifically, it is a study of identity politics (in the plural) associated with ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ as they unfold in the classroom in relation to knowledge production and social classification. Categories such as ‘Muslim’ and ‘Danish’ are thus sought deconstructed in a study of the classroom as a setting for knowledge production and production of social difference. What kinds of knowledge of religion are produced? What spaces for subjects/subjectivities? What ways to be a pupil? And how does ‘Muslim-ness’ and ‘Danishness’/‘Christian-ness’ enter into in the social economy of the classroom? The classroom is thus studied as a micropolitical arena for relations and politics regarding minorities and the majority and the ways in which they figure in the social economy of the classroom.
The data material of the project is based on my observations of two delimited educational modules in the primary school subject Kristendomskundskab (literally: Knowledge about Christianity) at two different schools located in the same Copenhagen neighborhood. Both educational modules deal with several religions, particularly Christianity and Islam. The material consists of sound recordings of classroom speech, by systematic registrations focusing on turn-taking, by interviews with teachers and pupils and finally a questionnaire for the parents concerning information of a socioeconomic nature.
The project’s perspective on the classroom is inspired by Basil Bernstein’s concepts of recontextualizing and pedagogic discourse as a way to conceptualize and study forms of knowledge as well as how they are reshaped and produced in school on the terms of the logic of the pedagogic field of practice. This Bernsteinian perspective on the educational system and curriculum makes up the overall framework of the dissertation in which I employ two parallel analytical strategies, i.e. one drawing on the concept of discursive regularity (Michel Foucault) – allowing me to analyze the production of the educational content – and the concepts of social space and field (Pierre Bourdieu), enabling me to analyze the ways in which agents are produced in the social economy of the classroom. The study of discursive regularity in relation to the formation of knowledge and subjects is concretized by the discourse analytical framework of sociolinguist Norman Fairclough through studies of linguistic practice, namely classroom conversation, while the Bourdieuian key concepts are concretized through studies of turn-taking practices and the categorization and acknowledgment practices of the teachers.
The dissertation links the study of the classroom as knowledge and subject production to a conception of societal ‘classes’ as production of social classification – practices of acknowledgment and non-acknowledgement that function in conjunction with possession of economic capital and capitals related to cultural education [Bildung]. The point is that ‘religion’/‘culture’ may be understood as clusters of knowledge, but also as subject-producing technologies coloring and forming bodies. Moreover, these knowledge clusters are simultaneously tinted by the social economy associated with the bodies of the agents as they are being transformed and produced in the social economy of the classroom.
When the categorical cluster ‘religion’/‘culture’ is discussed from a perspective of social classification, it may be understood as something that does more than merely interact with social classification. These subject-generating knowledge clusters – themselves populated by subjects – related to ‘religion’/‘culture’ in the classroom curriculum constitute a productive and potent part of the social classification. In light of the concept of capitals, they are thus bound up with and have consequences for social distribution. Categories such as ‘Muslim’ and ‘Danish’/‘Christian’ are in themselves to be understood as a process of social classification and distribution. Thus, ‘religion’ may be understood as a class-producing practice having a vital institutional life in something that should not be perceived as a religious institution in the formal sense, but rather as a state institution and as such embedded in societal structuring.