Madeleine Arnot

Moralities and Mobilities: Sociological Perspectives on Contemporary Challenges to European Egalitarian Values in Education

Thursday 4 September 14:00 - 15:00
Chairperson: Helena Costa Araujo

Location: B001/B003 Anfiteatro (Keynote will be streamed to room B026)

In What Use is Sociology? Bauman (2014) argues that the discipline is fundamentally moral, political and ethical. As ethical practice, it articulates, preaches, and promotes ‘rules of moral conduct’, ‘preparing the soil in which moral awareness may grow’. It does so by providing an ‘account of the epoch’ that allows individuals to connect and interpret their lives to the era in which they live. As such, sociological studies need to engage with biographies and individual everyday lives, with structural processes and with political power relations in what are multi-vocal, multi-centred societies. Fundamental to the promotion of such a moral research agenda is the provision of a separate alternative legitimation to that of ‘institutionalised politics and the creation of a morality where the key issue is that of ‘responsibility towards the Other’.

The ‘age of migration’ in which we now live, calls for research that addresses, critiques, retrieves and promotes moralities appropriate for mobile social relations in global society. It is vital to explore the ethical dimensions of educational institutions and policies when they relate to the migration of people, ideas and resources. I use two examples of contemporary globally-viral moral issues to which I believe sociological research in education can make a real contribution.  

European egalitarian values today and increasingly in the future are challenged internally by immigration and externally by critics concerned about the hegemonic imposition of European values (whether neo-liberal or human rights) to ‘Other’ cultures. I argue that sociological research needs to engage more forcefully and explicitly with the immoralities associated with internal European immigration policies and the effects on our educational systems - the contradictory role they have in relation to exclusionary and inclusionary policies.  At the same time, critical sociological studies of education are needed to reconsider the complex often subordinating role that Eurocentric egalitarian educational values play in relation to other non-European cultures (such as indigenous gender orders), whether within our societies or whether exported through global development goals. These movements of people and of ideas are inevitably linked.

As this highly mobile epoch unfolds, sociological research into the ‘morality of social justice’ (for example, concepts such as compassion and respect) can help shape the educational values which the next generation needs in order to avoid ever greater internal national and global conflict. The greater the individualization of society associated with neo-liberalism, the more essential are forms of social solidarity and a global conscience collective, helping young people finding common cause with Others. In the future, sociological research on education (despite its policy marginalization) is not only relevant but essential so long as it has the courage ‘to put loyality to human values’ (Bauman 2014) above all else.

Madeleine Arnot is a Professor of Sociology of Education at the University of Cambridge. She holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Uppsala, is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Sweden and a Professorial Fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge. She is member of the British Sociological Association and the British Educational Research Association. She has held visiting positions at the University of Porto, Portugal; Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece; Stockholm University, Sweden and the George A Miller Visiting Professorship of the University of Illinois, USA and has been a member of expert research assessment panels on democratic values, gender and education for the Swedish Research Council and for the Equality Centre at University College, Dublin.
Her primary interest is in the development of the sociology of education and particularly in the role of education in relation to diverse social inequalities and the promotion of democratic citizenship. She is internationally known for her work on socio-cultural reproduction theory, her use of Bernstein's theory of pedagogy in relation to  gender and education and pupil voice, and recent youth research in the Global South.
She is currently Chair of the Executive Editorial Board of the British Journal of Sociology of Education, a member of the editorial board of International Studies in Sociology of Education and joint editor of the Routledge series on 'Education, Poverty and International Development'.

Recent publications include: (with H.Pinson and M. Candappa) Education, Asylum and the 'Non-citizen' Child: the politics of compassion and belonging , London: Palgrave (2010); the Gendered Citizen: sociological engagements with national and global agendas,  London: Routledge (2009); (ed) The Sociology of Disability and Inclusive Education: A Tribute to Len Barton, Abingdon: Routledge (2012); (co-ed with Fennell, S.); Gender Education and Equality in a Global Context: conceptual frameworks and policy perspectives, London: Routledge, 2008).

Upcoming ECERs

ECER'24, Nicosia
ECER'25, Belgrade
ECER'26, Tampere
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The aim of the ‘European Conference on Educational Research’ is to create an inclusive platform for initiating, reporting, discussing and promoting high quality educational research ...
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