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More than princess girls and “grrr” heterosexual dudes: An exploration of space, text, performativity, gender and becoming in senior secondary drama classrooms

Lambert, Kirsten (2017) More than princess girls and “grrr” heterosexual dudes: An exploration of space, text, performativity, gender and becoming in senior secondary drama classrooms. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Late adolescence is a critical time in the formation of a young person’s sense of self with studies pointing to the senior secondary drama classroom as a generative space for this to occur. What is not yet clear is the importance of context, and particularly the powerful forces of neoliberal times, in shaping and potentially delimiting young people’s explorations of gender and life trajectories. More specifically, through the texts students study and the characters they embody, personality and desires are moulded by capital in ways hidden from individual control.

Drawing on 15 drama teachers and 13 of their post compulsory students from government, Catholic and independent schools in Western Australia from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, this dissertation examines the formation of identity/ies in the context of students’ embodiment of characters from proscribed texts in the senior secondary drama classroom and asks: how does the embodiment of characters in texts in year 12 drama empower and constrain adolescent becomings in contemporary times? Year 12 is the final year of schooling for students in Australia. Framed through a critical, post-humanist ethnographic methodology, the theories of Butler, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari are utilised to examine how these forces and “becoming,” as a process of change and resistance, interact to create something new. Second, embodiment is considered through a neoliberal culture of competitive performativity, with gender considered third. Fourth, drama education and creativity are highlighted and linked in generative ways, with consideration then given to the ways that the contemporary zeitgeist impacts on drama education itself in uncertain times.

The study contributes to our understanding of neoliberal education systems, whilst focusing specifically on adolescent becomings in drama. The research revealed evidence of a culture of performativity in Western Australian drama education. This is manifest in fewer subject choices offered in schools that limit drama’s availability, “data-driven” curriculum implementation, mechanisms of surveillance of teachers, and deleterious effects on students and teachers in schools from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds. Nevertheless, despite a pervasive culture of performative neoliberalism, teachers and students find creative lines of flight from normative educational structures and gender binaries in the safe and open space of the drama classroom.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 5: Gender Equality
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
Supervisor(s): Wright, Peter, Pascoe, Robin and Currie, Jan
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