Research Seminar: Education and Social Cohesion: Reforming and Re-forming the Discourse

Dr Chidozie Alozie

Dr Chidozie Alozie

Education and Social Cohesion: Reforming and Re-forming the Discourse

Abstract: Education is essential to the production and reproduction of other social systems and, crucially, to those forces which bind such systems together by forming and calibrating individual attitudes towards socially desirable ends (Priest et al., 2019). Education also reflects the challenges to the Australian multicultural success story.  In a present socio-political moment marked by the amplification of populist nationalism, where immigration, culture and, crucially, concepts of social cohesion loom large within social and political agendas, education and its attendant processes of acculturation and subjectivisation become foregrounded. This paper approaches education as conventionally evincing a Durkheimian (1956) approach, producing in student/citizens the necessary homogeneity through which to inform cohesion as a veritable ‘social glue’ (Babacan, 2007). However, it regards the ongoing catenae of structural educational reform as threatening the role of education within this acculturative process.

This presentation focuses upon research into the discursive practices intended and enacted by and through policies of structural educational reform, problematising their acculturative practices as indicative of a discursive shift in both the social and educational imaginary (Matthews, 2013). Through a poststructuralist policy lens, and engaging policy as discourse (Bacchi 2007, 2009; Bacchi and Goodwin, 2016), I argue that post-GFC educational reform reinscribes both education and social cohesion within an affect-driven competitive arena, re-forming our relationship to social cohesion and ultimately positions education as an obstacle to social cohesion– as a Foucauldian dividing practice, in truth.

This argument suggests that the examination of the social and conceptual logics through which reform becomes real indicates a path towards addressing this discursive shift, towards repositioning education, and especially its role in advancing multiculturalism and social cohesion as an ideal or social obligation (Ivison, in Sitou, 2019), as a social good, rather than a positional ideal.

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