22 SES 16 B, Capability and Habitus: Critical perspectives on widening participation, social mobility and student persistence within global higher education settings
Prior to the reflexive turn in the mid-eighties but more commonly since then, it is almost a must that doing critical school ethnography is preceded by or combined with a self-exploration exercise intended to reveal the ethnographer’s personal equation, that is, ‘knowing who you are and its potential influence over your research’ (Iris 2004), no matter what the specific issues or research questions guiding the fieldwork are. Beyond the choice of research topics and the available approaches to the topics themselves, learning about one’s own biases -ways of seeing, capturing, ignoring and, thereby, (un)following data threads, as well as their interpretation- is crucial and, therefore, needs to be taught (Carrasco and Bertran 2017). This paper draws on data from 60 written accounts of the educational experiences and trajectories of the students in three School Ethnography seminars taught by the author (2014-2017) in order to introduce advanced undergraduate students to the reading-doing-writing ethnography processes and help them gain deeper insights about their habitus within educational settings. The students were asked to develop their exercises in two separate phases that consisted, first, of a free chronological narration prompted by a reduced number of questions suggested by the author/instructor, and was followed by the analysis of their own texts with the aim to identify the forms of cultural capital (Bourdieu) they had been socialised into as well as the practices, expectations and dominant themes (Anyon) of the schools they had attended. A comparative analysis of the students’ final essays reveals higher levels of awareness of how inequalities are masked and an increased empowerment in the academic field among students from different class backgrounds. It also reveals their better disposition to engage in cross-class dialogues and collusion (Gregory, Conteh, Kearny and Sommerfeld 2005) when conducting team ethnography and interpreting ethnographic monographs in further exercises. Finally, the findings also show the students’ deeper understanding of the extent of reproductive theory itself in broader perspective and of ethnography as epistemology in Bourdieu (Blommaert 2005).
Blommaert, J. (2005): Bourdieu the Ethnographer, The Translator, Vol. 11, Iss. 2. Carrasco, S.; Bertran, M. (2017): Auto-etnografía y Meta-etnografía como metodologías docentes en Antropología de la Educación, IV Congreso Internacional de Etnografía y Educación, UAB, 11-14, july 2017. Gregory, E.; Conteh, J.; Kearney, Ch.; Mor-Sommerfeld, A. (2005): On Writing Educational Ethnographies: The Art of Collusion. London: Trentham Books. Iris, M. (2004): Passages: The Ethnographic Field School and First Fieldwork Experiences, NAPA Bulletin, American Anthropological Association.
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