Meritocratic exceptionality and affirmative action policy in higher education in Chile

Jocelyn Briones, Daniel Leyton


Based on Foucauldian notions such as discourse, regime of subjectification, and governmentality, the article analyzes one of the dominant discourses constituting the affirmative action policy in higher education in Chile. Our analysis is based principally on main documents associated to the discursive formation of the Support and Effective Access into Higher Education Program (PACE by its acronyms in Spanish), the main affirmative action program in that country. We argue that this program deploys a meritocratic exceptionality subjectification regime that governs inclusion and right to HE through a discursive chain that articulates notions of selectivity, excellence, quality, talent, sacrifice, responsibilization and critique against the dominant admission policy. This articulation is inscribed and mobilized in the discourses about working-class students, their families and schools, and the university. This makes possible, on the one hand, the legitimacy of the program as well as of their students as new constituencies with the right to HE, and on the other hand, the strategic foreclosure and invisibilisation of the structures of inequality that sustain the majority of working-class students and their knowledges excluded from HE.


Higher education; discourse; regime of subjectification; responsibilization; affirmative action policy


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Copyright (c) 2020 Daniel Leyton, Jocelyn Briones


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