Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Valuing the informal realm : peer relations and the negotiation of difference in a north London comprehensive school
Author: Winkler Reid, Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 2738 1157
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2013
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
This thesis is an ethnographic study of the informal realm in a North London comprehensive school. Although situated within, and formed by, an institutional context, this network of peer relations is largely unmanaged by adults. Pupils are in charge. They exert influence, manifest social definitions, create their own hierarchies and negotiate their differences. My focus of study is a cohort of 15 to 16 year-olds in Year 11. They come from a diversity of backgrounds, in terms of religion, parental occupation, academic attainments and ethnicity. Through close attention to the pupils’ words and actions in the day-to-day workings of the informal realm in this school, I explore the constitution and consequences of this impressive phenomenon. Anthropological studies of the informal realm are few and far between, and ones in British schools even rarer. Yet, the informal realm offers valuable contributions to three areas in anthropology: the emerging anthropology of youth; the little-studied everyday realities of Western personhood; and an application of Munn’s theory of value production (1986). Munn’s model has not yet been applied to the informal realm. However I argue her theory of value production serves to illuminate the entire realm. It is intrinsically relational and involves subjective transformation. Centrally, action is the primary unit of analysis, as it is for my analysis. There are no structures or formal roles in the informal realm, so pupils must continuously maintain their arena with a constant flow of transactions. I argue that in the process of creating and maintaining this realm, pupils come to value themselves as particular kinds of people (Evans 2006). Different groups engage in different modes of value production. Through these actions, their subsequent evaluations, and the daily debate over what constitutes positive and negative value, pupils collaboratively establish a constellation of differences. They organise their world, enabling them to share the same social space yet define themselves as very different kinds of people. In this constellation of differences, ethnicity, gender and sexuality are particularly salient categories of distinction, subject to pupils’ collaboratively set conventions. In order to ‘fit in’ pupils have to conform to these conventions. Thus this ethnography delineates what is involved in becoming an appropriately ethnic, sexual and gendered person in school. The application of an intrinsically relational model of subjective formation challenging Western ideals of the autonomous individual. These processes of differentiation occur at the same time as processes of unification. Throughout their time as a community, Year 11 pupils are producing communal value through which they can define themselves worthwhile as a group. They end their time of compulsory schooling with a celebration of this communal value.
Supervisor: Hirsch, E.; Parker, M. Sponsor: Brunel University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Youth ; Anthropology ; Britain ; Personhood ; Friendship