Verticality, power and surveillance in the classroom: Disabled children's resistance

TERRELL, Katharine (2020). Verticality, power and surveillance in the classroom: Disabled children's resistance. Childhood Remixed, 2020 (2020), 93-104.

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This paper considers how vertical power dynamics play out in one English primary school classroom, based on a PhD study of young children’s embodied school experiences. I consider how adults use vertical space to surveil and control, yet children can also use vertical space to their advantage by avoiding the surveilling gaze of adults. This paper elucidates the findings of part of a PhD study, namely that children can and do use their “lower down” position to resist adults’ normative expectations of development and behaviour. This is especially applicable to children with a label of special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) who are considerably less powerful than the adults around them. Verticality is intimately tied to power relationships, and therefore to surveillance (Nemorin, 2017). It might seem obvious that adult-child relations “are vertically structured, with the adult in a dominant and the child in subordinated and dependent position” (Nordström, 2011). Yet, it remains valuable to consider the physical, embodied, assemblage-in-space ways in which verticality, such as literal height differences, plays a role in surveillance and resistance in the classroom. I take the concept of “verticality” both as a metaphor and as a literal embodied experience. Firstly, I consider how child “development” is seen as a vertical process (Engeström, 1996). This normative understanding of development reinforces ideas of particular ways of becoming an adult (Goodley and Runswick-Cole, 2011) which do not allow for a “normality of doing things differently” (Hansen and Philo, 2007). Therefore, children who do things “differently” are especially vulnerable to bodily surveillance in the classroom. Then I consider how adults use vertical space to try to control classroom assemblages. I particularly focus on the way adults use vertical space (Readdick and Bartlett, 1994) to display information (including photographs) about children labelled with SEND, and what this says about agency and representation in the classroom. Finally, I discuss how children resist adult power in the classroom (Gallagher, 2010) by using space in ways that adults might not expect or intend.

Item Type: Article
Page Range: 93-104
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2020 13:52
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2021 22:01

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