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'No fear': the micro-practices of elite formation at an independent boys' school in England

Taylor, Emma (2022) 'No fear': the micro-practices of elite formation at an independent boys' school in England. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004468


This thesis aims to shed light on the micro-practices of elite formation and reproduction within the independent schools sector in England. Based on an in-depth, long-term ethnographic analysis of the elite independent boys’ secondary school environment in which I currently work as a teacher, this research provides a unique insider’s perspective on the conditions that enable and scaffold the formation of elite dispositions among students. Thus, the work uses innovative qualitative methods, such as peer facilitated research, to address key questions relating to the acquisition of such dispositions and how these may have the potential to be converted into powerful symbolic capital, professional success and the consequent perpetuation of the conditions that enable privilege. Through the use of a variety of different analytical approaches, the findings of this work suggest that there are three highly interconnected threads of flexibility, relationality and homogeneity at play within this elite setting, creating a distinct sociological context within which students are being equipped with the skills and experiences so valued by elite institutions and wider society more generally. Ultimately, this thesis argues that it is the flexible and familiar environment in which relationships are formed and reformed that is key to supporting the reproduction of embodied privilege at the school. Furthermore, the research seeks to draw out some of the ways in which the processes under analysis are heavily intertwined with whiteness and white privilege. To this end, the findings of this work are set within a historical context that aims to focus attention on the tight ‘web of whiteness’ present within such schools and so the ongoing relationship between elite schooling, coloniality and imperialism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Emma Taylor
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Savage, Mike and Astuti, Rita

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