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Managing local-global knowledge encounters: unpacking the dynamics of comprehensive sexuality education in conditions of precarity

Coultas, Clare (2018) Managing local-global knowledge encounters: unpacking the dynamics of comprehensive sexuality education in conditions of precarity. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.cbn1pxfyid1x


This thesis develops a social psychological approach for the study of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) aimed at youth in contexts of ‘precarity’ (Butler 2009) where wider political systems structure differential experiences of insecurity and marginalisation (e.g. widespread poverty, high HIV prevalence, gender inequality, generational differences). It emphasises the need for greater analytical focus on how change interventions are actualised, from conception through to evaluation. It argues that current framings of CSE in such settings, reify and depoliticise the local-global contexts which situate and shape interventions, and that existing methods neglect the dynamics and interactive aspects of implementation, which are key influencers on programme outcomes. Using the theory of social representations in a dialogical framing, this thesis conceptualises CSE interventions as a form of knowledge encounter; as situated spaces of strategic engagement between local-global knowledge cultures, enacted through the interpretative and communicative practice of differently positioned actors, agencies and artifacts. Through an ethnographic case study of an award-winning CSE intervention aimed at youth in urban Tanzania which had ‘disappointing’ outcome results, methodological and analytical focus is placed on three core points of interaction: the representations of knowledges on youth sexualities and their strategisation for behaviour change in curricula; youth sense-making of this curriculum knowledge in relation to the [sexual] relationship opportunities available to them; and the processes of communicative engagement (i.e. activities) which make up the intervention. The analyses provide greater context to the outcome results by illustrating how local-global precarity shapes behaviours, implementation practices, and overall change potentials, yet how it is either ignored or minimised in CSE curricula, and reporting and evaluation activities. Such neglect is seen to only further marginalise youth and overburden implementing actors. Whilst precarity is potentially beyond the scope of a CSE intervention, it is argued that more explicit focus needs to be put towards researching the specific insecurities that precarity causes in localities, and that these need to be factored into behaviour change theorisations, activities, and evaluations. In this way CSE interventions are conceptualised as spaces through which theorising on possibilities for relational forms of agency in precarity can be developed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Clare Coultas
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Campbell, Catherine

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