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In this paper, we weave the auto-ethnographic narratives of the two authors with Bourdieu’s key concepts of habitus, field and capital, as we seek to bring to a level of explicitness the reflexive lens which has shaped our scholarly work. In particular, we examine the process of becoming educational administration academics who share a scholarly disposition towards critical approaches to theory and practice. Such a location positions our work as marginal at best in educational administration scholarship and research, for it is a field characterized primarily by an orientation towards problem-solving and scientific rationality. We explore how our positioning as ‘outsiders within’ the field, combined with our multiple positions in fields such as feminism, unionism, schools and academia, has shaped a disposition towards critical scholarship. We suggest that the resources, which a disposition towards the critical may engender, are urgently required forms of capital at a time when there may be a powerful political investment in ignoring or overlooking the moral, ethical and political life force of educational administration scholarship as a potentially fertile site of intellectual activity.
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International Journal of Leadership in
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‘Outsiders within’? Deconstructing the
educational administration scholar
Jane Wilkinson & Scott Eacott
Published online: 29 Apr 2013.
To cite this article: Jane Wilkinson & Scott Eacott (2013) ‘Outsiders within’? Deconstructing the
educational administration scholar, International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and
Practice, 16:2, 191-204, DOI: 10.1080/13603124.2012.750762
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‘Outsiders within’? Deconstructing the educational
administration scholar
In this paper, we weave the auto-ethnographic narratives of the two authors with
Bourdieu’s key concepts of habitus,field and capital, as we seek to bring to a level of
explicitness the reflexive lens which has shaped our scholarly work. In particular, we
examine the process of becoming educational administration academics who share a schol-
arly disposition towards critical approaches to theory and practice. Such a location posi-
tions our work as marginal at best in educational administration scholarship and research,
for it is a field characterized primarily by an orientation towards problem-solving and sci-
entific rationality. We explore how our positioning as ‘outsiders within’ the field, com-
bined with our multiple positions in fields such as feminism, unionism, schools and
academia, has shaped a disposition towards critical scholarship. We suggest that the
resources, which a disposition towards the critical may engender, are urgently required
forms of capital at a time when there may be a powerful political investment in ignoring
or overlooking the moral, ethical and political life force of educational administration
scholarship as a potentially fertile site of intellectual activity.
Jane Wilkinson is a Senior Lecturer in Educational Leadership at Charles Sturt University, School of
Education, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga NSW 2678, Australia. Email:
She is the leader of the Pedagogy, Education and Praxis (PEP) Research Group, at the Research
Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education (RIPPLE), Charles Sturt University. She
has published widely in the fields of gender and academic leadership, and practice theory and leader-
ship. Publications include numerous journal articles, book chapters and books, i.e., Travelling towards
a mirage?: Gender, leadership and higher education (Fitzgerald & Wilkinson, 2010) and Changing educa-
tion, changing practices (Kemmis, Wilkinson, Edwards-Groves, Hardy, Bristol & Grootenboer, in prep-
aration). She has guest edited special issues of Critical Studies in Education (An examination of
leadership and policy through a Bourdieuian lens, 2010); and Professional Development in Education
(Examining professional development through an Education for All as praxis lens, 2013). She is a
chief investigator for an Australian Research Council Discovery Study, ‘Leading and Learning:
Developing Ecologies of Educational Practice’, which is analysing interconnections between leader-
ship, professional development and transformations to teachers’ and students’ practices. Scott Eacott is
currently Senior Lecturer, convenor of Educational Leadership programs and leader of the
Educational Leadership, Management and Administration (ELMA) group at the University of
Newcastle (Australia). In July 2013 he will be taking up an Associate Professor position at the Centre
for Creative and Authentic Leadership at Australian Catholic University. Email: Scott.Eacott@acu. His research interests and contribution to educational leadership fall into three key areas:
theorising educational leadership; school leadership preparation and development; and re-conceptual-
ising strategy in the educational leadership context. Currently, Scott is working on a book, tentatively
entitled Relational administration: A Theory and methodology for educational administration. In this
monograph he is building a distinctive research program that brings social theory, particularly the
epistemological preliminaries of scholarship, into conversation with the contemporary capitalist
condition, including notions of the post-bureaucratic and the image of the school as a firm.
VOL. 16, NO. 2, 191–204,
Ó2013 Taylor & Francis
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This article arose from a recognition that as scholars we share an
intellectual history and disposition towards critically interrogating and
theorizing educational administration practice, which has tended to
locate our research on the margins of this field of scholarship. For exam-
ple, we utilize a range of critical social science lenses, including feminism
(in Jane’s case), and Bourdieu’s methodological ‘thinking tools’ (in both
our cases), with which to examine practice in our field. This like-minded
scholastic disposition occurred despite the fact that we are markedly
dissimilar in a range of ways, including our gender, age, ethnicity
and family of origin. Like the majority of educational administration aca-
demics, we share a history of prior service in Australian school adminis-
tration, albeit in two state education systems with very different
structures, traditions and histories of public education. Jane’s administra-
tion occurred in Victoria, one of the first education systems in the world
to fervently embrace the mantra and technologies of managerialism,
primarily through the policy of self-managing schools. Scott’s administra-
tion experience was in New South Wales, a highly centralized state
bureaucracy which has only recently begun to adopt the principles of
school self-management. Currently, our scholarship takes place in
compulsory and post-compulsory education settings marked by three
decades of radical restructuring, tightly coupled to market-based reforms
and underpinned by managerialist regimes of efficiency and competition.
The hallmarks of managerialist governance, such as steering at a distance
and regimes of accountability (for example, the introduction of profes-
sional teaching/leadership standards; national numeracy and literacy tests
and the My School website in which schools are ranked according to
their performance) have radically reshaped Australian educational lead-
ers’ roles and professional identities (Blackmore & Sachs, 2007; Eacott,
2011; Fitzgerald & Wilkinson, 2010).
One of the unique characteristics of our geographical setting is that
Australia is a white settler nation, on the rim of South East Asia and the
South Pacific. Yet, in terms of national identity, we are perched
on the ‘periphery of the Euro-American core of the “West”’ (Ang,
1995, p. 69). This produces a distinctly ambivalent and ambiguous
subject location towards Australian whiteness, as both core (‘white’) yet
‘other’ (peripheral to British ‘post imperial’ and US ‘superpower’ white-
ness) (Ang, 1995). This positioning has contributed to some radical
restructuring in education and the economy, due to Australia’s need to
respond to its specific location close to South East Asian and Asian
markets, its considerable distance from economic blocs in Europe and
North America and its English inheritance (Blackmore & Sachs, 2007).
As scholars, this ambiguous position potentially affords us a unique lens,
located as we are at both ‘margin’ and ‘centre’ of the predominantly
Anglo-American traditions of educational administration scholarship.
Intellectually, this ambiguity and ambivalence may explain, to some
degree, the strong contributions made by Australian scholars to main-
stream educational administration (cf. Heldley Beare, Brian Caldwell,
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Bill Walker) and critical scholarship (cf. Richard Bates, Jill Blackmore,
Pat Thomson).
However, at the macro level of the educational administration field,
our subject location as critical scholars provides a marked contrast with
the hegemonic ‘problem solving’ orientation of scholarship in educational
administration. As a point of departure, what we share is a particular
intellectual puzzlement, one that disposes us to construe the world as a
set of significations to be interpreted rather than as concrete problems to
be solved practically or, to use Anderson’s (2009) language, ‘problem
posers’. It is important to state here at the outset what this article is, and
by virtue, what it is not. As a scholarly (reflexive) commentary, it is
grounded in disquiet with the status quo. While it stands on its own as a
contribution to knowledge, it also serves as part of a larger project with
the overarching purpose of being transformative, that is, changing our
ways of seeing and being in the world. Through the mobilization of auto-
ethnography and Bourdieuian thinking tools, our goal is to interrogate the
constitution of the critical disposition towards scholarship in educational
As a means of engaging with this orientation, we describe our shared
proclivity towards the critical as locating us as ‘outsiders within’ educa-
tional administration as a field of research and scholarship (Hill-Collins,
1998). Hill-Collins used this term to denote social locations or ‘border
spaces’ inhabited by ‘groups of unequal power’, who are nonetheless
afforded a ‘unique angle of vision’ because of their intimate knowledge
of multiple social locations (2008, p. 6). We utilize the phrase to
capture both the sense of transgression we have sometimes experienced
as academics as we border cross within and between critical social
science and educational administration paradigms and conceptual
frameworks, and to capture, as well, the sense of freedom and creativity,
which such a location affords us. Yet why label this border crossing as a
form of transgression? One reason is that critical scholarship in educa-
tional administration research, (see, for example, Gunter & Fitzgerald,
2008; Thomson, 2011) is frequently labelled as inaccessible and/or
impossibly idealistic (Brooks, 2011; Jansen, 2008), despite its significant
history in the field. Such dismissal raises larger questions about
‘knowledge claims in relation to knowledge production and boundary
setting’ within the field, for example, in relation to which methodologies
may be legitimately utilized in empirical studies of educational adminis-
tration and the ‘productive possibilities for research design’, which
may ensue (Gunter, 2009, p. 87). The insider and outsider knowledge
(Hill-Collins, 1998, p. 6) that this location affords us is pivotal to
understanding struggles for legitimacy in educational administration, a
field in which relevance to (taken-for-granted) practice remains
paramount (see Brooks, 2011).
Importantly, in locating ourselves as outsiders within the field, we are
not indulging in a form of specious hagiography or scholastic martyrdom.
Nor are we claiming a spurious equivalence between our privileged sub-
ject location as middle-class, white academics and other individuals/
groups. Instead, we recognize that we have the agency as critical scholars
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to choose to continue to work within educational administration research.
Indeed, our claim that our work resides on the margins may be a form of
illusio, that is, an ‘unthinking commitment to the logic, values and capital’
of educational administration as a research field (Webb, Schirato, &
Danaher, 2002, p. 26).
Nor are we suggesting that the ‘outsider within’
subject location denotes a fixed, unitary category of scholarly identity in
relation to our field. Rather, we have utilized this position as a means
through which to reflexively interrogate both our practices and critical dis-
positions as scholars and, in so doing, raise broader questions about edu-
cational administration scholarship. Specifically, we ask: why have we
chosen to undertake scholarship, which is positioned as peripheral in our
field? What might such positioning signify about our practices as scholars
and our ‘personal intellectual journeys’ (Gunter, 2009, p. 92)? What
might the broader implications of our ‘struggles with identity and research
orientation’ (Gunter, 2009, p. 92) suggest about educational administra-
tion scholarship as a field of knowledge production, in terms of practice
and theory?
In engaging with this problematic, we draw on the work of French
social theorist Pierre Bourdieu, both working with and on his concepts.
We have done so for they allow us to make connections between the
embodied and performative nature of practice. In the spirit of reflexive
scholarship, our specific focus is the constitution of a disposition towards
critical educational administration scholarship. In order to examine the
questions, we raise in the preceding paragraph, we draw upon auto-eth-
nography as a means of interrogating the constitution, both historical and
social, of our practice as critical scholars. Both the similarities and dissim-
ilarities of our tales are woven together using a range of Bourdieuian theo-
retical resources, including habitus,field and capital. We conclude with a
discussion of how a combination of these critical forms of analysis may
fruitfully extend knowledge production about the practice of educational
administration scholarship as a field. First, however, we turn to a brief
discussion of auto-ethnography and Bourdieu’s key concept of habitus,in
order to locate and explicate our analysis.
Telling tales: auto-ethnography as a tool for critical
At the commencement of Sketch for a Self-Analysis, Bourdieu (2007
[2004]) notes: ‘This is not an autobiography’ (p. x). His injunction may
seem like a peculiar and superfluous observation. However, Bourdieu is
deliberately troubling the tendency for life history to become a form of
self-indulgence, in which an essentialized and ‘wholly understandable self’
(Thomson, 2010, p. 5) is produced. We have deliberately adopted an
auto-ethnographic approach for a number of reasons. First, there are few
examples of scholarly auto-ethnography in education administration (for
an exception see Tooms & English, 2010), despite the proliferation of
such narratives for turnaround principals. While the latter does little to
engage with matters relating to the social, cultural, historical and eco-
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nomic conditions which enable such discourses in the first place, the for-
mer engages with the ‘intimacy, viscerality and particularity of … (schol-
arly) … practice’ in ways which may have been left behind in educational
administration’s ongoing quest for legitimacy (Research Institute for Pro-
fessional Practice, Learning and Education [RIPPLE], 2011).
Second, auto-ethnography provides the capacity to expose the politics
behind the particularity of scholarly leadership practice, through asking
hard questions around the politics of fit which lies beneath constructions
of the norms of scholarly identity (Tooms & English, 2010). It provides
opportunities to turn a critical gaze on the implicit means by which par-
ticular understandings of educational administration scholarship are con-
structed as legitimate, while others are marginalised as carrying less
weight in the field. It thus forces us as scholars to ask questions about
dualisms such as centre and margins. Whose interests do such construc-
tions and privileging serve? How might our ongoing proclivity towards
critical scholarship serve our own interests? In challenging the hegemony
of the field and taken-for-granted capitals which position particular forms
of scholarship as more legitimate than others, an auto-ethnography of
educational administration scholars and scholarship potentially opens up
the field to reflexive vigilance.
Finally, and most importantly, in mobilizing Bourdieuian social theory
to our life narratives, our aim is to foreground the social production of
our subsequent scholastic trajectories. Rather than our life histories com-
ing about as a result of a linear path, they are a product of particular
social and temporal conditions (Thomson, 2010). For example, an
examination of past conditions such as our social class, gender and eth-
nicity can shed important light on the shaping of our scholastic trajecto-
ries. Such an approach may appear on the surface to be anaethema to
meritocratic ideals of democratic society and the agentic individual. This
could not be further from the truth. We do not deny ourselves as active
social agents who have clearly learnt to play the academic game well, tak-
ing advantage of the present social conditions through the numerous
forms of capital afforded us through education. Instead, we are highlight-
ing the crucial role reflexivity plays in the formation of the ‘knowing sub-
ject’ (Reed-Danahay, 2005, p. 23). Such reflexivity is a particularly
important analytical tool for educational administration scholarship, an
arena, which historically has been characterized by pragmatism and an
essentially atheoretical tradition (Gunter & Ribbins, 2002). Our auto-eth-
nographic narratives seek to challenge this doxa, these central assumptions
and values. In particular, we pay attention to Bourdieu’s concept of habi-
tus, a concept with a long history—— dating back to Aristotle—— but impor-
tantly, one which Bourdieu himself mobilizes to reconcile the dualisms of
agency–structure, objective–subjective and the micro–macro (Reay, 2004).
We are mindful of the intrinsic link between habitus,field and capital, but
due to space limitations, and our focus on the constitution of the critical
scholar disposition, we pay primary attention to habitus. We now turn to
auto-ethnographic accounts to interrogate the formation of our disposition
towards the critical in our research and practice.
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Attempting an anthropology of the self
Jane’s story
In a manner similar to many other academics of working-class origin,
education has played a key role in my quest for social legitimacy. Its roots
are etched in my family habitus. Bourdieu (1977) developed the concept
of habitus to demonstrate the ways in which the body is in the social
world, and the social world is in the body. While the concept allows for
individual agency, it also predisposes individuals towards certain ways of
being, working at both the individual and collective levels and as a com-
plex interplay between the past and present. For example, my mother was
not offered the same educational opportunities as her male cousins and
brother—— gender discrimination which severely affected her life choices
as a non-English-speaking background (NESB) immigrant to Australia.
She became acutely aware that she had been the object and subject of
othering (Blackmore & Sachs, 2007) and this led to her efforts to equip
my sisters and me with the forms of cultural capital open to her as a
working-class woman. School reports were scrutinized and parent–teacher
interviews were religiously attended. We were taken to the theatre to
watch popular musicals, the museum and occasionally to the state art gal-
lery. Although her tastes in art and theatre primarily centred on the popu-
lar aesthetic of the working class, they suggested to me the possibility of
intellectual worlds and ways of being, at a remove from the economic
necessity of the factory floor.
My upbringing in a household dominated by a breadwinning female
head and absent father (my parents had divorced when I was five) played
a critical role in the constitution of my critical disposition, or habitus.
Female authority in the private realm was the norm (albeit absent in the
public sphere). Moreover, I grew up with an implicit awareness that major
inequities between men and women were deeply entwined with one’s
social location. For example, much sought-after overtime was routinely
offered in my mother’s factory to males as the assumed breadwinners,
depriving our family of much needed extra cash. Dinner table conversa-
tions about the role of trade unions and political parties in making a dif-
ference to one’s lives, be it for good or ill, did not spring from
intellectually ‘abstract position(s)’. Rather, my gender and class locations
were experienced ‘as an always lived social relation … involv(ing) conflict,
negotiation and tension’ (Adkins, 2004, p. 11).
My decision to become a secondary teacher, the ‘dominated faction of
the middle classes’ (Turner, 1991, p. 513), was the classic choice of
bright working-class Australian girls in the 1960s and ’70s, particularly
when generous financial scholarships were offered for tertiary study.
Importantly, the choice ‘felt right’. Teaching in a working-class school in
the public education system from which I had graduated, I felt myself as
a ‘fish in water’, taking the education field around me for granted
(Wacquant, 1989, p. 43). Coincidently, my teaching career had com-
menced in the early 1980s at a time of great excitement and energy, when
a politically left-leaning Labour government with a number of highly visi-
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ble feminist politicians was elected to replace a long-reigning conservative
government. As a young teacher, I was experiencing the last wave of the
‘democratising effects of the period of protest’ of the 1960s and ’70s
(Zipin & Brennan, 2003, p. 316).
A disposition towards activism (the roots of which had been formed
in my early childhood) was fostered in this era. For the first time in my
life, I was exposed to feminist activism and philosophies, through post-
graduate studies and my work as an education consultant, implementing
affirmative action policies to redress gender inequities in girls’ education
and women’s teaching careers in my rural region. As a representative on
the central council of a highly activist teachers’ trade union, I witnessed
feminists playing a prominent role in union business. It was the first time
I had seen or worked with women who held formal senior leadership
roles. Eventually, I gained a deputy principal role and commenced a
degree majoring in women’s studies, with a view to eventually undertak-
ing doctoral research. None of these achievements came without a strug-
gle, but I was learning how to play the game at a time when the logic of
practice of the field of education partially coincided with my own habitus.
However, although my capital as a feminist and unionist carried some
weight in parts of the union and education fields, the logic of practice of
educational administration in which I worked, remained deeply imbued
with (white) constructions of masculinist authority (Wilkinson, 2008).
As a young female deputy principal, I did not fit with the largely
middle-aged, male and white administrators of my deeply conservative
rural region, although I got along with them on a superficial basis.
This crossing of the diverse arenas of feminism, trade unionism and
educational administration could be acutely painful. I experienced a pain-
ful misalignment in values between the collectivist, social justice-orientated
logic of practice in the former two fields and the more individualistic,
autonomous and highly competitive habitus privileged amongst educational
administrators. This is not to idealize the former fields which are just as
capable of symbolic violence but to foreground a differing logic of practice
which characterizes each of the fields (Wilkinson, 2009). Feminists have
argued that the distances and multiple subjectivities, which arise from the
‘field dissonance’ I was experiencing as an administrator, unionist and
feminist may provide a valuable set of resources for critique and reflexivity
(McNay, 2000). That being said, however, such resources can come at a
tremendous personal price. My felt dissonance as a ‘boundary crosser’
(Reed-Danahay, 2005, p. 29) became particularly acute, when a conserva-
tive government, full of managerialist zeal, was elected to power.
As a consequence of the election, a series of market-based reforms of
the public sector ensued in which managerialist practices and ideologies
played a critical role in the ‘renorming’ of the education field (Blackmore
& Sachs, 2007, p. 2). Previously common sense assumptions of the public
sphere as an important political space for social justice and equity in edu-
cation were swept aside. My belief in the game was shot. Social justice
became yesterday’s discourse and economic efficiencies, clients and mar-
kets were the new game in town (Smyth, 2011). Most importantly, I was
puzzled and struck by what appeared to be the uncritical, unreflexive
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acquiescence of the majority of administrators in my region to the new
regime. The dissonance between my ‘subjective expectations’ of social
activism in education and the ‘objective structures’ of the ‘renormed’ edu-
cation field grew (Bourdieu, 1977, p. 169). I eventually shifted interstate,
began a family and pursued doctoral studies. My aim was to move into
the academic field where I hoped a differing logic of practice would pre-
vail, one which stressed ‘dispositions to be reflexively critical and ethical
agents’ (Zipin & Brennan, 2003, p. 360). A crucial impetus for my doc-
toral scholarship was an attempt to make sense of the contradictions I
experienced between my role as an educational administrator and my
‘lived practices, social relations’ and ‘ethical disposition’ as a feminist edu-
cator and trade unionist (Zipin & Brennan, 2003, p. 352). For a brief
decade, the two roles had not seemed utterly incompatible, but the rise of
neoliberalism had put paid to that illusio. Hence, a prevalent thread,
which underpins my educational administration scholarship is: why is this
incompatibility the case and must it ever be thus?
A player with inherent mistrust
Scott’s story
Unlike Jane, I feel that there is no confusion in the fact that I am seen by
others as a conservative, a player in the managerialist regime that is the
enterprise university and the competitive market that is global higher edu-
cation. That being said, there is something about my engagement with
the educational administrative discourse, both scholarship and practice,
that suggests otherwise, there is something that brings me into contact
with the critical, to engage with its discourses, and importantly, to con-
tribute. A paradox of sorts, where I both embody the entrepreneurial aca-
demic, that which is sought after in the enterprise university, yet
contribute to a discourse that is marginalised in my chosen area. Follow-
ing Bourdieu, this creates a double bind, where my performance as a scho-
lar is measured by my productivity, and I am rewarded for that, yet my
scholarship itself critiques the performativity and economic focus of edu-
cational administration. In the context of this paper, it is the formation of
this disposition, or habitus, which makes this situation possible that is of
To this very day, my family is a stereotypical nuclear unit. My father
is a carpenter by trade and my mother a data entry clerk. Born in the late
1970s, me in 1977 and my sister in 1979, my father ran a successful
building company during my early childhood, with my mother staying at
home and looking after my sister and me. At the time, we had two cars, a
boat and numerous other luxuries that such a lifestyle could provide. That
was until 1984, when through a variety of incidents the company went
bust and my family, and more specifically, my parents, lost everything. As
a family we moved into an old run-down cottage on my grandparent’s
property, my father had to go back to working ‘on the tools’ and my
mother to work (resulting in a two-hour commute both morning and
night). Our family car was not the highest quality, and arguably more sig-
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nificant for me, I had to move schools. What I witnessed playing out was
the double edge of the game. Our family’s position in the field, and soci-
ety writ large, was significantly altered. Our symbolic and social capital
was lost. Therefore, as a young child, I experienced both the highs and
the lows of a capitalist society. Following Bourdieu, our family and indi-
vidual habitus had fallen out of alignment with our new field location,
resulting in a moment of crisis.
While this crisis for my family was difficult, we overcame it. My father
re-established himself in the decade that followed and by the mid-1990s
to late 1990s was again in a position of managing a development com-
pany (this time retirement villages, incidentally in Wagga Wagga where
Jane is based). This story is consistent with the aspirational culture of
Australian working- and middle-class society, that is, work hard and you
will get what you want. The high was, however, but a short-term window.
During the global economic turmoil of the last decade, the owners of the
development company had stretched their means too far and my father
was once again out of work. The game had again shown its ugly side. For
the second time in the past 25 years, my father was forced to go back on
the tools—— far more difficult when almost 60—— and my mother to
casual-/part-time office work.
What is it about this experience that shapes a critical scholarly stance?
My experience, and especially the somewhat seductive nature of the
mangerialist work ethic, makes it little wonder that I found myself in a
school leadership and now an academic position requiring considerable
administrative load. I typify the stereotype of educational administration,
being white and male (although I would argue that I do not yet tick the
third box of middle aged), and coming from a social position of privilege
(although I should note that I am the first to attend university on my
father’s side of the family). However, it is my experience that also signifi-
cantly shapes my critical stance in scholarship. The witnessing, not once,
but twice, of the game taking away what my parents had built up has
given me an inherent mistrust of the game. This mistrust, which enables
a reflexivity of my own role in playing, and by virtue of doing so extend-
ing the game, is built upon a constant struggle: the pursuit, if not craving,
of rationality, yet the acceptance of the social world as not rational. The
choice of Bourdieu as a theoretical lens may not seem obvious here. My
choice of the critical can be interpreted as a direct reaction—— and rational
choice—— to what I have witnessed. However, it is my embodying of the
hegemony of managerialism while embracing the scholarly periphery that
is of interest. It is here where I argue that the durability of my habitus,as
with Jane’s, warrants attention.
Of course, working with critical scholarship in a field, which primarily
orientates towards the pragmatic, can be somewhat self-serving. It serves
as an act of distinction, making one (or a group) stand out from the crowd.
In the contemporary academic environment, one that encourages and
rewards originality, this distinction is important and part of building a
research profile. The critique of rationality and the assumed linearity of
time, both features of mainstream educational administrative research, is
not only reflective of the critical perspective which I have adopted, but also
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my professional, and more importantly, personal trajectory. That is, the
practice of scholarship is not defined by the attribution of authorship to a
journal article, monograph, grant application or lecture, but rather is the
product of a series of experiences given meaning through their relationship
to both time and space. The underlying assumption of scholarly practice
is, therefore, reflective of my inner workings as the author and my place in
both time and space. This is what makes the analysis of our dispositions
both interesting and professionally challenging, for we take a risk as educa-
tional administration scholars in writing in an auto-ethnographic mode, as
such practices are rare in our field. Yet this is precisely our point, namely,
as scholars we need to take risks with our own practices.
On (mis)‘fit’ in the field
Far from appealing to martyrdom, or staking a claim to rock star status
among the academy, in this article we seek to interrogate the notion of
individual choice when applied to the development of a critical disposition
towards educational administration scholarship. Indeed, our position on
the periphery of educational administration, reflective of the (re)produc-
tive nature of the field itself, suggests the need for engagement around the
notion of misalignment by choice. Our intervention in this theoretical
space is an articulation of the desire to maintain intellectual autonomy
and the choice to not conform. For Bourdieu, this is a challenging propo-
sition. He outlines a ‘theory of crisis’ where the habitus falls out of align-
ment with the field in which it operates, creating a situation in which
belief in the game (illusio) is temporarily suspended and the orthodoxy of
practice, or doxic assumptions, is raised to the level of discourse, where
they can be contested. However, Bourdieu tends to view these moments
as an exception to the rule and even his own theory. As Crossley (2003)
suggested, despite Bourdieu’s attention to struggle within society (fields),
through his focus on (re)production, he tends to have a somewhat con-
sensual view of the world.
Herein lies an overarching question; that is, how can the divide
between sociology and management scholarship be bridged? As a disci-
pline, sociology uses the collective, society/ies writ large, as its unit of
analysis. In contrast, management—— for which we contend educational
administration most closely aligns—— focuses on the individual, be that
a person, a school or whatever. This distinction is significant, particu-
larly in the context of our argument around the choice to conduct
work located at the margins of our field. The strength of Bourdieu
here is that he provides theoretical resources necessary to deconstruct,
reconceptualise and then reintegrate an object of analysis within a
model of reality (Eacott, 2013). This is only made possible through
the interplay, not singling out, of his thinking tools such as habitus,
capital and field.
The work around the habitus of critical educational administration
scholars only works, both theoretically and empirically, through a sophisti-
cated construction of the field and an interrogation of the capital at play
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within that field. Therefore, there is a need to engage around changes
within the social, and also the unique location of players within those and
around those changes. For example, the professional identity crisis, which
Jane, and many other female administrators experienced in the 1990s (see
Blackmore & Sachs, 2007), arose from the misalignment between her
habitus and the new realities of the field. For Scott, his family’s rise, fall,
rise and fall again, has provided him lived experience of the rates of
exchange (capital) in society. What we have been struck by is the durabil-
ity of critique and reflexivity as consistent and crucial features of our habi-
tus. This is in contrast to a Bourdieuian reading which locates these
agentic features as arising from temporary moments of crisis in which the
dissonance between habitus and objective conditions becomes so great as
to lead to the replacement of ‘habit’ with ‘rational and conscious compu-
tation’ (Crossley, 2003, p. 48). In Jane’s case, a predisposition towards
social activism arising from early childhood experiences of gender and
class discrimination has governed her professional adoption of an ‘out-
sider within’ location within her educational administration scholarship,
as she negotiated the various shifts from schooling, academia and her
family of origin. Likewise, Scott’s inherent mistrust of the game, having
experienced both the rewards and loss of what is on offer, has also pre-
reflexively shaped the choice of ‘outsider within’. This subject location
has been an enduring feature of both Jane and Scott’s trajectories (both
professional and personal), shaping the hybridity, which characterizes
their identity construction/s.
A key strength of Bourdieu’s scholarship lies in his rejection of theory
for theories’ sake and the notion of intellectual autonomy. In mobilizing
these threads of Bourdieu through the use of auto-ethnography, we con-
tend that ‘intellectual’ be interpreted writ large. Our argument is that in
the practice of educational administration scholarship, there is a need for
contestation. Critical and scientific intellectuals—— not limited to those
who work in universities—— should seek to engage with, and regain some
of the terrain lost to technocratic administrative elites. Bourdieuian social
theory clearly provides the intellectual resources to articulate the means of
(re)production in society, and specifically education. In doing so, it also
provides the means through which leverage points and creative frictions
can be interrogated for the purpose of bringing about spaces of, and for,
The methodological tools of Bourdieuian social theory and
auto-ethnography can provide alternative means by which reflexivity and
critique can be dialectically embedded in the intellectual practice of
educational administration.
Conclusion: implications for educational administration
theory and practice
Here, we examined the question of whether Bourdieu’s social theory
could be mobilized to understand the formation of a critical disposition
towards educational administration scholarship. This may seem an odd
question to have posed, not least because Bourdieu is frequently por-
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trayed as little more than a (re)productive theorist with a consensual view
of society. However, through the auto-ethnographic narratives of our
experience/s, we have shown how Bourdieu’s social theory is instructive
for further reflections on what conditions are likely to lead to critical
scholarship. We do not seek to replace one master narrative (managerial-
ism) with another (Bourdieu). Rather, we have explicitly brought Bour-
dieu into conversation with educational administration in managerialist
times. That said, the intellectual resources employed do not lie directly in
Bourdieu’s understanding of field,habitus and capital as means of (re)pro-
duction. Instead, we suggest that consistent with his pursuit and protec-
tion of intellectual autonomy, such resources can be located through
connecting interrogations of the mundane elements of everyday practice,
one’s location in the social, and what these signify in terms of broader
analyses of power.
This is a crucial form of labour, particularly given that managerialist
discourses have constructed an orthodoxy (or doxa) of meritocracy and
the accumulation of capital as a means of advancing one’s standing with a
field. What we have not done, is argue for the establishment of another
field or subfields such as ‘critical educational administration studies’, as
such proliferation of fields—— in the Bourdieuian sense—— is neither desir-
able or helpful. Such actions would lead to further confusion regarding
Bourdieu’s notion of a field as a (semi-)autonomous social structure and
the practices that take place within such locations. In addition, despite
our attention being focused primarily on our habitus, we cannot stress
enough that this disposition formation can only be understood in terms of
capital and field.
As noted previously, this work fits within the critical tradition on edu-
cational administration. Despite a rich and theoretically diverse discourse,
the critical has not provided substantive disruption to the technocratic
administrative hegemony of educational administration. Our focus on an
‘outsider within’ subject location is novel within educational administra-
tion and runs counter to managerialist discourses of progress. Following
Adkins (2011), we contend that while the task of the social scientist was
once to make the familiar strange, it is now our job to make the strange
familiar. By engaging with, and interrogating the spaces of strangeness,
educational administration research can reorientate its relation with reflex-
ivity and critique. At a time when civil unrest in England has raised trou-
bling questions about the role of education in the social formation of
youth, and educational administrators are described as having the ‘life-
blood of hope … drained from them’ by the ‘burden of ... everyday’
schooling (Jansen, 2008, p. 155), such reflexivity and critique can afford
important resources of intellectual vitality for practice and scholarship.
1. We are indebted to our colleague Laurette Bristol, for her insightful observations in this section.
2. Many thanks to our colleague Laurette Bristol for this point.
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... That is also the way I see myself at the moment. Gunter's (2010) account surprised me at the beginning, but then I found similar narratives by Wilkinson and Eacott (2013) and Thomson (2018) on the interplay between their human trajectory and academic work. Though they hold different positions and responsibilities in their universities, they all think with Bourdieu's concepts and their stories converge on one recognition: one's upbringing and education background does influence the construction of identity, habitus, capital, agency, as well as a sense of the field, the game, and how to be a player in the field (Thomson, 2018;Wilkinson & Eacott, 2013). ...
... Gunter's (2010) account surprised me at the beginning, but then I found similar narratives by Wilkinson and Eacott (2013) and Thomson (2018) on the interplay between their human trajectory and academic work. Though they hold different positions and responsibilities in their universities, they all think with Bourdieu's concepts and their stories converge on one recognition: one's upbringing and education background does influence the construction of identity, habitus, capital, agency, as well as a sense of the field, the game, and how to be a player in the field (Thomson, 2018;Wilkinson & Eacott, 2013). Thus, I have come to a realisation that it is not just me. ...
Full-text available
The completion of a doctoral candidature is usually marked with a thesis, a degree certificate, and the PhD title awarded to the author of that thesis. While the thesis, degree, and title can be tangibly celebrated, intangible and long-lasting values lie, more often, in the skills and thinking that have been shaped throughout the candidature. This chapter, as an autobiographic account, illuminates the formation of transferable skills and new thinking, while I strived to complete my PhD thesis and, more importantly, handled my crises of identity and of academic writing as “identitywork”. Humanistic aspects of a candidature, especially discourses between my supervisor and myself, and other scholarly encounters, are emphasised. I present excerpts from my research diaries as the records of my thinking and generation of ideas and draw on Pierre Bourdieu’s multiple interrelated conceptual tools to give analytical insights into those records. In the chapter, I explain how my supervisor’s questions about my identity and writing triggered my reasoning and led to the development of proactive reflection and critical eclecticism. Thus, I argue for Bourdieu’s key concepts as useful tools for self-analysis to gain an insightful understanding of your doctoral candidature and to appreciate what the candidature offers.
... My recent reading of Tosas (2016) reminded me of this fall walk. I realize that the majority of research in educational administration remains trapped in the management mind and is not free from the biocapitalistic logic (Foster, 1986;Wilkinson & Eacott, 2013). Under this logic, educational leadership seems to be subordinated to the logic of educational management (Tosas, 2016). ...
... Therefore, after World War II, efforts have been made to legitimise EA such as the 'theory movement' (Culbertson 1983), 'humanistic and interpretive movement' (Greenfield and Ribbins 2005;Samier and Schmidt 2010), 'effectiveness movement' (Angus 1986), 'critical movement' (Bates 1984;, 'postmodernism movement' (English 2003), and recently the 'naturalistic coherentism' approach (Evers and Lakomski 2015). The advent of these movements has led to ontology (Newton and Riveros 2015), epistemology (Evers 2017;Eyal and Rom 2015) and methodology (Scott 2010b) of EA, and today the appearance of thoughts of philosophers such as Michel Foucault (Anderson and Grinberg 1998;Niesche 2011;Niesche and Gowlett 2014), Jacques Derrida (Niesche 2013a), Jean-François Lyotard (Niesche 2013b), Pierre Bourdieu (English 2012;Gunter 2002;Lingard and Christie 2003;Scott 2010a;Wilkinson and Scott 2013), Hannah Arendt (Gunter 2013;Veck and Jessop 2016) and Jürgen Habermas (Dolmage 1992;Kochan 2002;Milley 2008;Whiteman 2015). ...
The purpose of this volume is to explore approaches, problems, and issues that arise in research methodology for the field of educational administration and leadership in multicultural and non-Western contexts. Culturally sensitive research methods literature has been developing in a number of fields like sociology and cultural studies, as well as cross-cultural management studies and postcolonial critiques but has only just begun to appear in educational studies. As educational administration and leadership studies internationalises, there are emerging concerns about the appropriateness of research methods that assume many Western values, arrangements of social institutions and governance systems. Concurrently, with increasing refugee and migrant populations, research methods that accommodate these groups in multicultural contexts require research methods that better reflect these populations accurately. It is timely, now, to examine research approaches, data collections and interpretive methods for the field to capture diversity and also explore the conditions that many countries are experiencing. Some of these are varying experiences with globalisation, modernisation, regional politics and conditions, as well as the increasing multiculturation of countries as a consequence of population mobility. Over the last few decades the array of postcolonial critiques have also raised issues of past and current forces that marginalised local societal values and structures, such as the neocolonisation of globalised education. It is the intention of this volume to explore research approaches and methods that can provide designs and data collection methods for these contexts from a number of countries and cultures, as well as address issues of research ethics for researchers and their subjects that do not violate laws and cultural norms. While research scholarship on educational administration and leadership has broadened to include many more qualitative methods, including material culture, artefacts in interviews, and other ethnographically related methods, systematic methodology has not yet incorporated in a systemic way the growing literature on culturally sensitive research methods. The primary disciplines upon which the field rests have been introducing these issues and frameworks into methodology, providing many examples of how this can be done that can also inform this aspect of internationalisation. This includes the central disciplines for educational administration and leadership of psychology, sociology, political science, cultural studies, history, and linguistics (see ‘competing titles’ section below). The field is still dominated by Western research methods, particularly those in English-speaking countries from dominant populations, and has played a dominating role in globalised education in non-Western countries. Most important are considerations of legal requirements in other jurisdictions and among minority groups and political and cultural norms that require either locally-developed or modified approaches and instruments. Research methodology is a critical aspect of internationalisation since it is through these that knowledge is legitimised and created. This volume is designed to examine the foundational theories and approaches for suitable research, research and teaching practices, and relevant international cases and issues. Drawing on literatures in a number of disciplines and fields where culturally sensitive research methods have been developed, their implications for the educational administration and leadership field are explored.
... My recent reading of Tosas (2016) reminded me of this fall walk. I realize that the majority of research in educational administration remains trapped in the management mind and is not free from the biocapitalistic logic (Foster, 1986;Wilkinson & Eacott, 2013). Under this logic, educational leadership seems to be subordinated to the logic of educational management (Tosas, 2016). ...
Full-text available
This philosophical essay explores the purpose of educational leadership with a particular focus on where and how leaders interact with education policy. Building on the idea that the purpose of educational leadership should differ from that of business management, this paper analyzes how mechanisms of policy engineering might construct educational leadership as instrumental to serving predetermined policy goals. Using Stephen Ball’s concept of policy technologies and Herbert Marcuse’s idea of one-dimensional thinking, I analyze the ways education policy controls school leaders. In response to these mechanisms of control exerted through policy engineering, I explore where and how school leaders can challenge such mechanisms and create new possibilities for educational leadership.
... Researchers have highlighted the importance of reflexivity in the researcher role (see for example, Smith et al. 2009, Wilkinson andEacott 2013; McNarry, Allen-Collinson, and Evans 2019), including the embodied-self of the researcher (Finlay 2006), and the need for researchers to be aware of how their own presentation of self could potentially impact participants' behaviour and willingness to engage with the research. R was acutely aware of the corporeal 'presentation' she made as a fit, healthy and able-bodied young woman, in contrast to the older, male bodies of her participants, some of whom had visible bodily impairments. ...
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The opportunities and challenges that younger, female, civilian researchers can encounter when undertaking ethnographic research with predominantly male military veterans are relatively underexplored sociologically. This is despite a growing literature on reflexivity in military studies over the past decade. To address this gap, we draw on symbolic interactionist insights to examine the reflective account of a British, female researcher in her mid-20s, who conducted qualitative research with 20 ‘older’ (aged 60+) retired servicemen from the Royal British Legion, a United Kingdom charity providing support for military veterans and their families. The study explored ex-servicemen’s embodied experiences of physical activity. The findings presented here cohere around four salient themes identified in the ethnographic reflections: (1) researcher positionality as a young, female, civilian researcher in a traditionally masculine militarised world; (2) managing distressing topics and interactional discomfort; (3) maintaining an ‘ethic of care’; and (4) dilemmas regarding representational issues and ex-servicemen’s embodied experiences.
... All participants were either doctoral candidates or post-doctoral researchers with strong researcher identities and a keen interest in theoretical matters of many different kinds. We wonder whether this had a bearing on the extent to which the participants assumed an inquiry stance and scholarly disposition (Wilkinson and Eacott 2013) to understand their histories and present and future circumstances as teachers (and or students). They certainly showed a desire to engage in 'deep learning' (Marton and Säljö 1976) throughout the course, which was most likely crucial for developing understanding. ...
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The complexity and challenges of higher education (HE) in recent times have been widely discussed in HE literature, as have concomitant demands on university teachers and their professional learning needs. Much attention has been paid to new academics in these conversations, but less so to international PhD and post-doctoral researchers, who are often asked to teach, yet can be precluded from attending foundational pedagogical courses. This paper discusses an interpretive-hermeneutic study based on a pedagogical course developed for new academics in this very situation. Our discussion focuses on professional growth experienced by the course participants in terms of pedagogical understanding and self-confidence, and what enabled that growth from the participants' perspectives. On the basis of analysis of interviews, questionnaires and qualitative course evaluations, we consider the value of such purpose-built courses and offer insights into what may need to be considered by course developers to ensure that their impact is optimal. ARTICLE HISTORY
Helen M. Gunter’s research disrupts the field of educational leadership, management and administration (ELMA); by this, we mean that her work supplies distinctive new ways of and/or tools for understanding or theorising the field that challenge existing perspectives, including functionalist ones. However, these disruptions themselves follow an intellectual tradition of critical scholarship, and she has left intellectual resources that others have taken up in their treatments of, and dispositions towards educational leadership. Our aim and distinctive contribution is to think with these aims to define what it means to adopt a Gunterian approach to research. We trace three strands to Gunter’s contributions to educational leadership and policy—which we see as mutually constitutive—and demonstrate how these contributions constitute a tradition of disruption and enable its continuation in a distinctively Gunterian manner. The three strands are Gunter’s theorising and use of theory; her typologising and mapping of the ELMA field; and her illuminating and problematising its features through the use of metaphor. We see all these as contributing towards Gunter’s overarching intellectual project concerning the investigation and problematisation of knowledge production, which, following Blackmore, she achieves through her willingness to investigate diverse areas of focus.KeywordsGunterianTheoryMetaphorDisruptionTraditionMapping
In Chap. 1, I put forward a case for reconceptualising educational leadership through a practice lens. I argued that a practice approach matters, ontologically, analytically and as a tool for transformation of theory and practice in relation to educational leadership scholarship as a field. I noted a key distinction between educational leading as a form of pedagogical practice/praxis and the misrecognition of educational leadership as synonymous with positional authority in formal educational sites. But what do I mean by the concepts of practice and praxis? Why do they matter for research in educational leadership and claims for transformation of educational practice? In this Chap. 1 examine why a re-turn to practice and the re-claiming of notions of praxis matters for the field. I contend that these concepts provide important theoretical and practical resources by which to re-imagine educational leading as part of a constellation of educative practices that has the potential to reinvigorate the lifeworld of educating. This is a particularly crucial and timely endeavour, given the current drive for standardisation, normalisation and ‘what works’ that has so flattened educating as a field and which grows ever more relentless.
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[Headings, introductions, abstracts, forwards, preliminaries distort the temporality of the presented as it occurs, without preface, defacing.]
This introduction aims to set the context for the subsequent chapters that draw on narrative methodologies and creative analytic practices, while employing distinct theoretical frameworks, to document and deconstruct the concept of educational leadership within various education settings originating from diverse global environments. It argues the case for the new ‘theory turn’ in educational leadership scholarship, thus calling for the problematization of educational leadership discourses. Moreover, it debates the relevance of narrative and creative analytic practices for the analysis and representation of critical educational leadership scholarship. This acts as a prelude to explorations of educational leaders’ mundane practices, and perceptions, that enable a textured reading of educational leadership with various layers. This creates a space for the various writers to map the diverse ways in which leadership discourses are received, translated, and enacted at the practitioner level within the constraints of local and global policy.
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But because what we propose to study above all is reality, it does not follow that we should give up the idea of improving it. We would esteem our research not worth the labour of a single hour if its interest were merely speculative. (Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society, p. xxvi) In the French edition of The Weight of the World, Bourdieu contends that the goal of his critical sociology is to ‘open up possibilities for rational action to unmake or remake what history has made’ (1999 [1993]: 187). But what is ‘rational action’ in politics? And what potential contribution can intellectuals make to it? This last question is the one that I would like to address here, taking Bourdieu's own answers to it as my starting point. The aim will not be to analyse the concrete orientation of his public interventions, but instead to understand the type of articulation between political life and the intellectual world that he conceptualised. I have no philological ambitions of retracing Bourdieu's trajectory from the 1960s onwards. My intention is to focus on his theorisation of these issues during the last period of his life, from the moment he committed himself increasingly to the public realm (the turning point here is symbolised by the publication in 1993 of The Weight of the World, whose echo outside the academic world was considerable). © 2011 Simon Susen and Bryan S. Turner editorial matter and selection.
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In this timely and important new book, Gary Anderson provides a devastating critique of why a managerial role for educational leaders is counterproductive, especially for improving opportunities for low-income students and students of color, and instead proposes ways of re-theorizing educational leadership to emphasize its advocacy role. Advocacy Leadership lays out a post-reform agenda that moves beyond the neo-liberal, competition framework to define a new accountability, a new pedagogy, and a new leadership role definition. Drawing on personal narrative, discourse analysis, and interdisciplinary scholarship, Anderson delivers a compelling argument for the need to move away from current inauthentic and inequitable approaches to school reform in order to jump-start a conversation about an alternative vision of education today.
Pierre Bourdieu (1930--2002) had an enormous influence on social and cultural thought in the second half of the 20th century, leaving a mark on fields as diverse as sociology, anthropology, critical theory, education, literary criticism, art history, and media studies. From his childhood in a rural French village, to his fieldwork in Algeria, to his ascension to the Chair of Sociology at the College de France, Bourdieu's life followed a trajectory both complex and contradictory. In this original and eloquent study, Deborah Reed-Danahay offers fresh insights on Bourdieu's work by drawing on the perspectives of ethnography and autobiography. Using Bourdieu's own reflections upon his life and career and considering the totality of his research and writing, this book locates Bourdieu within his French milieu and within the current state of discussion of Europe and its colonial legacy. Locating Bourdieu revisits major themes and concepts such as structure and practice, taste and distinction, habitus, social field, symbolic capital, and symbolic violence, adding new perspectives and discovering implications of Bourdieu's work for understanding emotion, social space, and personal narrative. The result is a work of impressive scholarship and intellectual creativity that will appeal to scholars, students, and non-specialists alike.
Performing and Reforming Leaders critically analyzes how women negotiate the dilemmas they face in leadership and managerial roles in Australian schools, universities, and continuing education. To meet the economic needs of the post-welfare nation state of the past decade, Australian education systems were restructured, and this restructuring coincided with many female teachers and academics moving into middle management as change agents. The authors examine how new managerialism and markets in education transformed how academics and teachers did their work, and in turn changed the nature of educational leadership in ways that were dissonant with the leadership practices and values women brought to the job. While largely focused on Australia, Performing and Reforming Leaders strongly resonates with the experiences of leaders in the United States and other nations that have undergone similar educational reforms in recent decades.
Born and raised in a remote mountain village of the Pyrénées in southwestern France, Pierre Bourdieu moved to Paris in the early 1950s to study at the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure at a time when philosophy was the queen discipline and the obligatory vocation of any aspiring intellectual. There he quickly grew dissatisfied with the ‘philosophy of the subject’ exemplified by Sartrian existentialism — then the reigning doctrine — and gravitated toward the ‘philosophy of the concept’ associated with the works of epistemologists Gaston Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem, and Jules Vuillemin, as well as to the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Shortly after graduation, however, Bourdieu forsook a projected study of affective life mating philosophy, medicine, and biology and, as other illustrious normaliens such as Durkheim and Foucault had done before him, he converted to social science.