Subjects of, or subject to, policy reform? A Foucauldian discourse analysis of regulation and resistance in UK narratives of educational impacts of welfare cuts: The case of the ‘bedroom tax’

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Abstract

This paper draws on material generated from a qualitative study of educational impacts of a British welfare reform affecting housing rent subsidy, size and location commonly known as ‘the bedroom tax’ (Bragg et al., 2015), which was partly taken as a topic for study specifically because of its iconic status as a controversial and unpopular welfare ‘reform’ (or cut). The analysis draws on Foucauldian understandings of subjectification or subject-formation - as elaborated both from within and in relation to the social (Foucault, 1970; 1983; Ball, 1990; Olssen, 2006; Popkewitz & Brennan, 1998), read through new and newly available perspectives (Allen, 2015; Pêcheux, 2014). This approach is applied to discuss how those addressed by educational policy, and also as research participants, are both subject to prevailing political and practice-oriented discourses (of educational ‘problems’, and of the neoliberal frameworks by which poverty and welfare cuts are discussed), but also – at times – how they can become the subject of – in the sense of reformulating – these discourses in their accounts of everyday activities. After outlining our approach and the context for the study, we focus on four examples drawn from the narratives of the various stakeholders in the study – parents/carers, school staff and other community-based organisations as illustrations of how this discursive approach can provide rich readings of relevance to educational policy debates. From these we not only take further discussions of the production and regulation of subjectivities via social and educational policy practices, but also offer indicative glimpses of resistance to this as expressed by those who are its primary subjects, and where in one case such resistance brings our own research commitments under critical scrutiny.  As such, the contribution of this article is both topic-related (concerning the educational impacts of policy) but, crucially, also conceptual and methodological, in motivating for a Foucauldian-influenced discursive approach that is sensitive to struggle and resistance.

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How to Cite
Burman, E., Greenstein, A., Bragg, J., Hanley, T., Kalambouka, A., Lupton, R., McCoy, L., Sapin, K., & Winter, L. (2017). Subjects of, or subject to, policy reform? A Foucauldian discourse analysis of regulation and resistance in UK narratives of educational impacts of welfare cuts: The case of the ‘bedroom tax’. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25, 26. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.25.2320
Section
Discursive Perspectives Part 2
Author Biographies

Erica Burman, Manchester Institute of Education

Erica Burman is Professor of Education, at the Manchester Institute of Education, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester, UK, and Visiting Professor at University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and Adjunct Professor, Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway.

Anat Greenstein, Manchester Metropolitan University

Anat Greenstein is a Senior Lecturer in Disability Studies and Inclusive Education at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Joanna Bragg, University of Manchester

Jo Bragg is a Research Associate at the University of Manchester, and also undertaking a PhD at Salford University.

Terry Hanley, University of Manchester

Terry Hanley is a Senior Lecturer in Counselling Psychology at the Manchester Institute of Education, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester.

Afroditi Kalambouka, University of Manchester

Afroditi Kalalmboukou is a Research Associate at the Manchester Institute of Education, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester.

Ruth Lupton, University of Manchester

Ruth Lupton is a Professor of Education at the Manchester Institute of Education, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester. 

Lauren McCoy

Lauren McCoy recently completed a professional doctoral training in Counselling Psychology at the Manchester Institute of Education, School of Environment, Education and Development, the University of Manchester. She is now in practice

Kate Sapin, University of Manchester

Kate Sapin is a Lecturer at the Manchester Institute of Education, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester.

Laura Winter, University of Manchester

Laura Winter is a Lecturer in Counselling Psychology at the Manchester Institute of Education, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester.