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Open Access Terror/enjoyment: performativity, resistance and the teacher's psyche

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This paper focuses on Stephen Ball's article, The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity, since it is here that he analyses the issue of how neoliberal education policies shape teacher identities that I also wish to explore. I begin by providing a summary of the 2003 piece, noting how it locates teachers and their work in the midst of policy, politics, and passion in contrast to dominant techno-rational discourses of teaching – embodied, for example, in discourses of professional teacher 'standards' or 'competencies' that reduce teaching to matters of technical efficiency. As part of this summary, and complementing Ball's own use of Foucault, I use the four 'axes' of Foucault's ethics to explain how performativity has brought about changes in relation to (1) the domain, (2) the authority sources/mode of subjectivization, (3) the practices and (4) the telos of being a teacher. The paper goes on to argue that Ball's emphasis on 'terror' can usefully be supplemented by a Lacanian-inspired recognition of 'enjoyment' as an explanatory factor that help us understand the grip of neoliberalism's ideology of performativity. The paper concludes by examining the economies of fantasy and enjoyment as they relate to the work of teachers, how these economies work to sustain the terrors of performativity, and how an ethics of the Real that emphasizes the critical and creative potential of sublimation, might form part of a repertoire of resistance.

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Keywords: NEOLIBERAL EDUCATION POLICY; PERFORMATIVITY; PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY; TEACHER IDENTITY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2013

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  • The London Review of Education is now published by UCL Press. New issues and all the back content shown here are available through ScienceOpen and accessed from the journal's page at UCL Press www.uclpress.co.uk/pages/london-review-of-education. Founded in 2003 by the UCL Institute of Education, the journal reflects the Institute's broad interests in all types of education in all contexts - local, national, global - and its commitment to analysis across disciplines using a variety of methodologies. It shares the Institute's aspiration to interrogate links between research, policy and practice, and its principled concern for social justice.

    Drawing on these strengths, LRE is a wide-ranging and engaging journal that features rigorous analysis and significant research across key themes in education, including: public goals and policies; pedagogy; curriculum; organization; resources and technology; and institutional effectiveness. Articles and book reviews are written by experts in education, psychology, sociology, policy studies, philosophy and other disciplines contributing to education research, and by experienced researcher-practitioners working in the field. The highest quality of reporting and presentation are ensured through an independent, anonymised peer-review process. As an entirely web-based open access journal, LRE has been able to offer innovative features and formats including: epistolary conversation; colour photos and illustrations; illustrative video clips.

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