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Second Lecture by Prof. Máiréad Dunne: Making gender identities: explorations of social and cultural spaces in schools

Date: 2011-06-09       Visitcount: 1433

    On June 8 2011, Professor Máiréad Dunne from the University of Sussex gave her second lecture on gender identities in meeting room 228. This lecture continued her exploration into the issue of education equality from the unique perspective of how gender identity makes social and cultural spaces in school.

    Gender equality in education has become an international focus in recent years. However, how we understand gender identity, how schools create gender identity, and how social and cultural space is divided within schools, remain controversial questions. Since gender is a persistent pattern of our society of all times, how we understand gender and equality, would greatly influence our policy and practice in schools. In order to address the importance of recognizing our vision on gender identity, professor Dunne designed three different handouts in helping us discuss how our ideas about gender identity are contradicted, how the characteristics of gender identity are processed and changed by time and how they is culturally related. These questions enable us to see gender as a social construction, a constant performance to regulate ourselves.

    Professor Dunne explained in detail how schools as an institution create practices and rules to structure gender identities and relations, regulate behavior through formal and informal norms, distribute and restrict physical verbal spaces in schools, depower and produce a gender hierarchy, naturalize the hetero-normativity, and finally accomplish and reinforce gender identity within a gender regime.

    Professor Dunne also provided ethnographic research she conducted in Ghana, an analysis of gender in four themes in formal and informal school life. The research helped us to read school life through a gendered eye, seeing the “normal” and “natural” school life as a reflection of gender issues from different dimensions of school management, gender space in classes, gender duties and gender violence. The examples expressed notions that gender regime is strong, and is explicitly and implicitly producing heterosexual identities as a constant performing process and result of self regulation.

    Finally, Professor Dunne inspired us to think more deeply about this issue by seeing not only how institutional practices structure and regulate gender sexuality and their intersections, or how school life naturalizes hetero-normative gender positioning and relations, or how gender performance reproduces the male dominant gender hierarchy, or how we are embodying gender identity in gender regimes by self regulation, but also to think about how gender identity is naturalized in reference to original biological differences, what stereotypes it would reproduce, what possibilities it would limit, what values we might put onto students by addressing and telling them who they are. And what should really matter in school education? What do we really mean by promoting education equality, and to what extend could we achieve inclusive education and gender equality in school? The questions raised by the lecture definitely inspire us to think, reflect and explore more in our pursuit of education.

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