Poststructuralism at Work with Marginalised Children

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This book aims at developing the capacity to apply poststructuralism in a setting where other discourses are dominant. It focuses on working both with students categorized as ...
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The Mad: Being Positioned as ‘Mad’ and Counteracting that Positioning

Pp. 51-70 (20)

Bronwyn Davies and Cath Laws


As detailed in Chapter 1, Researching special schools: a poststructuralist approach, this work explores the capacity to apply poststructuralism, in theory and in practice, in a setting where other discourses are dominant. I focus on my own work as principal in the context of a special education school where I worked with students categorised as ‘emotionally/behaviourally disordered’. I analyse the discourses that inform this kind of work, both from the position of one who inevitably took them up, even becoming expert in them, and from a Foucauldian position of critique which sets out to render these discourses less able to be taken up.

This chapter explores the discourses and practices used with children at a special school who come to be read as/perform as ‘mad’. Using Foucault’s work on madness and civilisation, I examine the everyday educational practices through which these children are constituted, and tease out the dangers and chances created for teachers and students working at the margins. Through exploring the practices around ‘mad’ adults, as detailed by Foucault, I examine how these same practices are used with children in covert and complex ways, and I explore the dominant and marginalising discourses positioning children and young people as ‘mad’.


education, disability, emotional and behavioural disorders, binary/binaries, psychology, psychiatry, mental health/illness, cognitivist/ism, Foucault, poststructuralist research, deconstruction.


University of Melbourne Australia.