Enabling Constraints for Angel-in-the-Making

Year: 2021

Author: Melissa Wolfe, Melissa

Type of paper: Individual Paper

This paper discusses the implications of subject selection processes experienced at a selective entry science school with Year 10 students as they progress through their final years of schooling. The filmic conversations created through this post-qualitative study illustrate how schooling events play a central role in noiselessly (re)producing systemic misogyny and racism within everyday affective encounters. This study draws on Karen Barad’s concept of ethico-onto-epistemology by focusing on an ethics of relations that emerge within the specific social-material encounter and is read with Brian Massumi’s notion of enabling constraint, as a diffractive creation within the recounted events. I briefly critique subject selection processes undergone that delimit students, but my focus is on mapping how one exemplar girlstudent recounts her negotiation of the enabling constraints within events in situ. Her experiences are simultaneously agonistic and joyous events illustrating an affective undergoing of schooling processes. I map her navigation toward a seemingly affirming future. This mapping highlights the importance of affective experiences within the ecology of classrooms and the consequential ‘choosing’ of subjects that frame the making of the successful schoolgirl subject. Each pedagogical encounter discussed is considered as a unique, but connected event, making visible the differential potentials of capacity for affecting and being affected, enabling or disabling bodily action and growth with students that have consequences for matter and mattering. The cartography produced is not intended to form a prescriptive model for educationalists to follow but is intended to open up scrutiny of the consequences of affects that are in play for differentiated students as they negotiate school.  I speculate how educationalists might enable a reimagining of numbing shame (non-belonging) as interest(ing) with the students themselves through recognizing enabling constraints that they are emerging with. How can students and educators find comfort in their own discomfort as they emerge in events that may pose a threat to their identities, in order to metamorphose negative affect into a positive affirmation? Students emerge in situ and sculpt a performance of named (and apparently desirable) normative student behaviors within a contextual affective field. The field may be constrained but I ask how students can be enabled and shift these boundaries as a making-of.