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Dorte Marie Søndergaard

School bullying: new theories in context

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportAntologiForskningpeer review

School Bullying: New Theories in Context brings together the work of scholars who utilise ontological, epistemological and methodological approaches that challenge paradigm one, contributing to the shift in research on school bullying that we call paradigm two. Several of the authors have participated in a five-year research project based in Denmark called ‘Exploring Bullying in Schools’ (eXbus) and others have been collaborative partners. Many are based in the Nordic countries, and others are from Australia and the US; their collective experiences with conducting empirical research in these countries highlights both the similarities and differences amongst national school systems. Most importantly, the authors share an analytical ambition to understand bullying as a complex phenomenon that is enacted or constituted through the interactive/intra-active entanglements that exist between a variety of open-ended, social, discursive, material and subjective forces.
Instead of approaching bullying as a phenomenon that can be explained and defined in terms of one factor (e.g., aggression), the authors in this anthology focus on a range of different forces that are central in bullying: teachers (Hansen), school principals and parents (Hein), classroom culture with its particular experiences and histories (Hansen, Henningsen and Kofoed) and the virtual experiences of children – both in terms of their electronically mediated communications and the media products with and through which they play and interact (Kofoed; Søndergaard). Other chapters focus on social factors in relation to gender, sexuality, race and class (Meyer) and the role of normativity in understanding bullying more generally (Ellwood and Davies; Laustsen). These chapters by no means exhaust the range of intra-acting forces at work within school bullying, and further investigation would be welcome to address, amongst other subjects, the economic and political structures of school systems. In the articles produced through the eXbus project (Hansen; Hein; Hansen, Henningsen and Kofoed; Kofoed; Mathiassen; Schott; Silberschmidt Viala; Søndergaard), the authors have addressed this analytical ambition through a conceptualisation of multiple intra-acting forces and an analysis of different and often shifting positions within group interactions. Thus, the group relations found within bullying dynamics move into focus.
With the sub-title ‘new theories in context’, we are calling attention to the importance of the theoretical approaches that are either implicit or explicit in current research on bullying. And we seek to open up the field of school bullying – which has been heavily dominated by researchers in individual psychology – to theoretical approaches developed and applied within the humanities (e.g., history, literature and philosophy) and the social sciences (e.g., anthropology, law, psychology/social psychology and sociology). Foucault’s work, for example, has been making a substantial impact on these disciplines for more than three decades, but bringing his theoretical perspectives into research on school bullying is a new endeavour. By challenging and expanding the theoretical resources for research on bullying, we are contributing to our ambition of opening up the field of research to a dialogue between many different disciplines in order to enhance knowledge about bullying.
The analytical goal of this anthology is inspired by a range of thinkers who analyse complex processes of subjective and social becoming, including several who are loosely labelled ‘poststructuralist’ such as Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Julia Kristeva and Judith Butler. Both Foucault’s and Butler’s analyses of the processes of becoming with regard to the subject and the social provide an important basis for many of the perspectives brought forward in this volume. The social, historical and cultural constructions of subjectivity and relational practices – as well as the abjections by which subjects and social groups are formed – have inspired several of the articles, and the authors seek to reveal complex patterns of relating amongst children in school classes that are saturated by marginalisation and bullying practices. Foucault’s conceptualisation of the dispositif, for example, comprises the basic analytical premise of Carsten Bagge Laustsen’s analysis of approaches to bullying (see page XX).
New materialist thinking, such as that which has been developed by Karen Barad (2003, 2007), takes some of the insights from Foucault and Butler and propels them further in the direction of post-humanism to analyse matter–discourse as an active agent in processes related to the enactment of phenomena – including the becoming of the social. Although, as a physicist and philosopher, Barad offers a quite abstract conceptual framework, her approach to the processes of material–discursive enactments establishes important premises for the recurring basic assumptions that the eXbus-team have developed about bullying being enacted by multiple intra-acting forces and about their entangled agencies (see Søndergaard on page XX for an explication of this idea). Barad emphasises that phenomena are always the effects of open-ended dynamics and intra-active processes. She introduces the term ‘intra-action’ (as opposed to the more common ‘interaction’) to signify the mutual constitution of entangled agencies. In Barad’s thinking, matter and discourse both have agency, and both are agential in their mutually entangled processes of enactment (Barad 2007: 33). Consequently, there are no separate, individual material–discursive agencies that precede their interaction (Barad 2003: 815). Rather, “the notion of intra-action recognizes that distinct agencies do not precede, but rather emerge through, their intra-action. It is important to note that the ‘distinct’ agencies are only distinct in a relational, not an absolute, sense, that is, agencies are only distinct in relation to their mutual entanglement; they don’t exist as individual elements” (Barad 2007: 33; author’s emphasis). Her incorporation of many material–discursive forces – which includes forces that are typically called ‘social’, ‘cultural’, ‘physical’ and ‘biological’.– offers inspiration for our analyses of complexities in the research material, including interviews and observations. This focus on the intra-active processes of material–discursive enactment also echoes some of the ambitions evident in Deleuze’s conceptualisation of the rhizome: this concept enables an analysis of the extensive and entangled network of processes that make it possible to grasp how aspects of the social–discursive–temporal–technological are entangled with each other in processes of becoming; e.g., in cyberbullying (see Kofoed on page XX).
The cultural–historical tradition in psychology – including the work of theorists such as Jerome Bruner, Jaan Valsiner, Klaus Holzkamp and Ole Dreier – also provides background to some of the chapters in this anthology (Hansen; Haavind; Mathiassen). Thinkers in this tradition have analysed human practices in terms of an ‘inner’ and dialectic relationship between the social and the individual as well as narrative structures and processes of subjective becoming, as opposed to many other psychological approaches that overlook the role of activity, societal practices, cultural mediation and often also the intertwining of past, present and future.
Contemporary researchers like Sarah Ahmed and Brian Massumi, who explore the sociality and circulation of emotions and affects, have also brought attention to how emotions shape both individual and collective bodies, and how the intensity of affects works and translates into a diversity of specific emotions. This research has inspired the analysis of cyberbullying included here (Kofoed).
Most of the chapters in this anthology are based on qualitative research and data, such as interviews, observations, school essays, drawings, school-policy documents, virtual ethnography and various other forms of fieldwork. The theoretical and analytical perspectives already mentioned have informed the analysis of this data and enabled the authors’ research into the complex processes of becoming seen amongst various the actors involved in bullying practices. Theoretical approaches based in deconstruction, discourse analysis and narrative analysis as well as mixed methods have been utilised to analyse the qualitative data. This anthology makes a particular contribution in highlighting the importance of qualitative research in the field of school bullying. However, the authors also acknowledge the importance of insights obtained through quantitative studies, such as survey material, and through mixed methods (see Hansen, Henningsen and Kofoed on page XX, and Cross and Barnes on page XX).
ForlagCambridge University Press
Antal sider464
ISBN (Trykt)9781107027763
ISBN (Elektronisk)9781139226707
StatusUdgivet - 2014


  • School Bullying, Qualitative Methods, Mixed Methods, social exclusion anxiety, contempt production, complex relational dynamics, definition of bullyin g, Mobning

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