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Title: Colbeck High School : a figurational analysis of relationships, identities and behavioural norms in male Physical Education
Author: Mierzwinski, Mark Francis
ISNI:       0000 0004 9351 8035
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2020
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Physical Education (PE) is the most sex-differentiated and gender stereotyped subject in the school curriculum in England. The long tradition of gendered PE is not reflected in a more contemporary gender-neutral PE curriculum. This disparity is part of a broader theory-practice gap centred on differences between how PE should be and how PE is. Therefore, in this thesis, relationships, identities and behavioural norms in Male PE (MPE) are examined as they are, and not how they should be. A figurational sociological approach is adopted to examine gendered social processes, power relations and masculine embodiment within MPE. The data discussed in the thesis is from a six-month ethnography in Colbeck High School, a religious-affiliated mixed-sex secondary school within the North-East of England. Key findings identified how both enabling and constraining social processes within MPE were configured and subsequently internalised by boys along fairly binary gendered lines. Whilst MPE teachers contributed to this process through using gender slurs, boys’ gendered self-restraints were primarily driven by their desire to be part of, and maintain an affiliation with, the dominant ‘We’ group amongst their peers. In constantly negotiating their identities with the prevailing ‘We’- identity, boys appeared to exercise a more flexible and reflexive self-control when restraining or expressing their emotions according to often gendered social circumstances. This conscious behaviour was evident in boys’ frequent engagement in banter, a behavioural norm which carried much social significance within MPE. Banter was found to be premised on necessary levels of mutual identification and mutual respect, and to differentiate it from inappropriate comments or verbal bullying, boys had to be socially and emotionally aware of their, and other people’s, feelings and intentions. Given this increasingly expected heightened levels of social awareness and emotional sophistication, a case is made to reconfigure academic conceptions of banter from being an immature behaviour to banter as being a sophisticated form of communication. These findings contrast with previous research that tends to overly focus on boys’ physical behaviours as influential in their power relations with peers and key markers of their gender identity by illustrating the increasing importance of verbal exchanges as symbolic forms of power. Furthermore, through identifying the levels of consciousness present in boys’ behaviour and linking this to their exhibiting of a third nature psyche, critiques of attempts to attach boys’ emotional expressions to their innate biological sex or suggestions that boys’ aggression signifies regressions to instinctive impulses are provided. Placing these key findings within broader civilizing processes it seems that long-term shifts from physical to more verbally centred power relations has impacted young people at relational, identity and behavioural levels. There appears to be a heightened need for young people to engage in sophisticated forms of communications and emotional self-restraint before entering adult social worlds, and the MPE figuration provides an illustrative example of this.
Supervisor: Velija, Philippa ; Smith, Andrew ; Cock, Steven Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available