Power lines: Derrida, discursive psychology and the management of accusations of teacher bullying

Authors

  • Alexa Hepburn

    Corresponding author
    1. Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, UK
      Alexa Hepburn, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BJ, UK (e-mail: alexa.hepburn@ntu.ac.uk).
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Alexa Hepburn, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BJ, UK (e-mail: alexa.hepburn@ntu.ac.uk).

Abstract

This study connects broad issues of classroom control and the disciplining of pupils by teachers with a detailed examination of the way teachers deal with an implied accusation that they have been bullying. The analysis of interviews develops with reference to discursive psychology and Derrida's development of deconstruction. Billig's (1992) insights into ways that participants accounts can neutralize threats to established social arrangements are employed in relating detailed analytic points to the broader power relations between teacher and pupil. Interviews were conducted with Scottish secondary school teachers, and subjected to close textual analysis. This resulted in the development of three themes: (1) Subjectivity Construction, in which the functional role of the construction of mental entities is examined; (2) Normalizing Techniques, identifying strategies whereby intimidation can be constructed as normal; and (3) Figuration, examining the utility of figurative language - metaphors, maxims, and so on. These themes display the subtlety and complexity of teachers' strategies for distancing themselves from being held accountable for reported intimidation. To conclude, three broader features of the study are discussed: the contribution to discursive psychology that Derrida's deconstructive philosophy can make; the respecification of psychology and subjectivity as participants' resources for action; and the contribution that this type of detailed study can make to issues of power and social critique.

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