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Rethinking Belonging through Bourdieu and Diaspora Kate Thomas, PhD researcher Birkbeck, University of London OU Widening Participation through Curriculum.

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Presentation on theme: "Rethinking Belonging through Bourdieu and Diaspora Kate Thomas, PhD researcher Birkbeck, University of London OU Widening Participation through Curriculum."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rethinking Belonging through Bourdieu and Diaspora Kate Thomas, PhD researcher Birkbeck, University of London OU Widening Participation through Curriculum Conference 30 April – 1 May 2014, Milton Keynes

2 why rethink belonging? the discourse of ‘belonging’ in retention literature is problematic in relation to part-time, mature undergraduates in English higher education (HE) a borderland analysis (Abes, 2009) allows for an enriched understanding of ‘belonging’, addresses multiplicity and complexity this borderland analysis interrogates ‘belonging’ in relation to part-time, mature undergraduates through ideas of power, identity and space/place and conveys the complexity of belonging in contested space

3 why is ‘belonging’ problematic? Tinto (1975) - integration and congruency as conditions of student persistence; Thomas (2012) - ‘a sense of belonging is … critical to both retention and success’ but who belongs and to what? What practices of belonging are recognised and validated in institutional discourses?

4 part-time, mature undergraduates highly diverse cohort: age, gender, ethnicity, educational background, qualification aim, employment status, parental and/or caring status… part-time study/students/provision - peripheral a uniform and universal discourse of belonging is based on dominant idea of HE student as full-time, young, time-rich, residential… ‘difference’ and ‘absence’ are viewed as problematic

5 a borderland analysis ‘to realise the complexity of student development it is important to use multiple theoretical perspectives in conjunction with one another, even when they contradict’ (Abes, 2012:190). difference power gender ethnicity CLASS identity place territory ‘home’ SPACE

6 Bourdieu and belonging Bourdieu’s ‘thinking’ tools: habitus, capital and field problematise belonging as a relational concept in structured social space ie: ‘belonging’ results from relations between student dispositions (habitus), their cultural capital and how this positions them in the field of HE part-time, mature students – fish out of water? too simplistic/mechanical for such a diverse group in a diverse sector?

7 Brah’s concept of ‘diaspora’ (1996) asks not simply who travels but when, how and under what circumstances? power –– regimes of power operate to differentiate one group from another (relational positioning) identity – diaspora recognises ‘a multiplicity of subject positions that constitute a subject’ (123); part-time mature undergraduates multiple roles / commitments / identities the spatial – diaspora incorporates ideas of journey, displacement and home, the complexities and processes of inhabiting contested space

8 ‘diaspora space’ occupied by those who have migrated and those who claim ‘legitimate’ belonging opportunities for transformation, re-inscription what happens if we consider HE as a diaspora space? viewing HE as a diaspora space makes visible the power dynamics within the sector but also potential in relation to practices of belonging and strategies for retention.

9 Massey: explicitly spatial space-time is the product of social relations shaped by power, relational not finite, always under construction activity space - a device for thinking about ‘the spatial network of links and activities … within each activity space there is a geography of power’ place - a particular moment in the articulation of those relations – place as extroverted, a meeting up of histories a progressive sense of place –multiple versions of belonging, negotiation

10 rethinking belonging? diversity and complexity are arguments against universal statements of belonging (as a retention solution in HE) Brah’s ‘diaspora’ and Massey’s progressive sense of place enhance a Bourdieusian analysis of belonging in HE in relation to part-time, mature students by: supporting ideas of identity as multiple, fluid and complex considering the spatial dimensions of identity and belonging opening up space to consider practices of belonging outside the institutional gaze. allowing an understanding of HEIs as diverse and unfixed with potential for multiple versions of belonging showing belonging to be a continually renegotiated process shaped by power relationships in social structures

11 theory into practice? how are case study HEIs positioned in the field of HE? what is the geography of power within the HEI? how does ‘retention’ function as strategy and practice within the institution? Who/what is seen as problematic? how are part-time, mature undergraduates positioned within the institution what spaces/places do part-time, mature students occupy/create for learning, sociality, development? (how) is belonging defined, experienced, imagined? By the institution? By staff? By students?

12 thank you

13 discussion points how is ‘belonging’ articulated in your institution? do all students have access to dominant practices of ‘belonging’? are alternative practices of belonging recognised in institutional strategy and practice? what spaces/places are provided/created for belonging? what is the relationship between ‘belonging’ and other major student agendas (engagement, satisfaction)?


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