Top of their class? On the subject of 'Education' doctorates

Year: 2002

Author: Middleton, Sue

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Foucault's work has been taken up by many educational researchers.Foucault's 'data' included texts for professionals and administrators and the 'case records' of those who were objects of their surveillance, confinement, or regulation - as patients, prisoners, pupils, citizens, etc. This approach appeals to educationists who analyse documents.

Ethnographic projects are also increasingly based on Foucaultian concepts. Yet Foucault did not study 'living breathing persons', but rather the 'subject-positions' that apparatuses of administrative and professional surveillance, regulation and monitoring made available. He described his method, genealogy, as "a form of history which can account for the constitution of knowledges, discourses, domains of objects etc, without having to make reference to a subject..." Such concerns may seem the antithesis of methods such as life-history, a term that may seem to imply autonomous individuals engaged in processes of 'development.' If genealogy requires that we 'get rid of the subject itself' and life-history involves individuals' 'stories of the evolution of curiosity and attention', does a methodology that braids these together necessarily unravel into oxymoronic incoherence? This paper explores dissonances and affinities between life-history and genealogy in educational research. To illustrate, I discuss my recent project on New Zealand Education PhDs.