When putting together our plenary panel session on ‘Researching New Urban Multicultures’ we were keen to assemble a group of people at different career stages, conducting methodologically innovative and cutting edge ethnographic research. Christy Kulz’s ethnography of a contemporary urban English academy immediately sprang to mind.
This piece of work, which examines neoliberal governance within schools and how class, race and gender are formulated within this setting, also addresses tricky methodological questions about the ethics of carrying out research with young people and working with institutional settings.
Christy’s work serves as a provide a nuanced and powerful critique of the academy as a means for ‘dealing with urban children’. Her arguments have an added urgency, given the government’s recent proposals for forced academisation. She writes:
‘Beaumont’s [school] ethos is steeped in pathological representations of Redwood as home to a raced, classed deficit culture in need of transformation through a return to law and order. Unstructured unhappiness becomes synonymous with the ‘urban child’, as several teachers use this shorthand to describe ‘Redwood [the neighbourhood] kids’. This urban child is contrasted with the ideal student – the suburban middle-class, predominantly white child.’ (Kulz, 2014)
This research was the basis for Christy’s PhD thesis, completed at Goldsmiths, and which won the British Educational Research Association (BERA) Doctoral Dissertation Award, in 2014. It will be published as a monograph ‘Factories for Learning’ by Manchester University Press next year.
Christy recently started an Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education where she is carrying out her new project ‘Governing schools, governing subjects: academies, mobility dreams and inequality’.
You can read more about Christy’s research here.