Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Denise Mifsud, Foucault and School Leadership Research. Bridging Theory and Method, Bloomsbury Academic, 2017

Extract from the book

Foucault and School Leadership Research illustrates the application of Foucauldian theory to an educational leadership research context, thus staging the ways a researcher negotiates the methodological tensions and contradictions in the conduct of qualitative inquiry within education research.

The book draws on an empirical study of a multi-site school collaborative that investigates relations of power within the unfolding network among the various leadership hierarchies in school governance. The book is anchored around a narrative dramatization that the author, Denise Mifsud, crafts from her data, using the dramatic play as a medium to present her research findings so as to show rather than just tell readers about network leadership dynamics. Mifsud’s innovative use of dramatization to communicate her findings and analysis serves to problematize the representation of qualitative research, as well as to incorporate researcher interpretation and explicate the intertwining nature of theory and methodology. Through the use of Foucauldian theory, mainly his notions of webs of power, discipline, governmentality, discourse, and subjectification, the research narrative critiques and problematizes traditional understandings of educational leadership.

The book focuses on and demonstrates the challenging enterprise of the art of theory application in method by outlining the epistemological, operational and analytical challenges encountered: the application of Foucauldian concepts in education research contexts; the adaptation of methodological and theoretical concerns; in addition to showing how the quality of research outcomes is shaped by social theory.

Table of contents

1. Introduction: Setting the Stage for the Research Narrative
2. Foucauldian Props for Data Interpretation and Representation I
3. Foucauldian Props for Data Interpretation and Representation II
4. Data Analysis Choices and the Crisis of Representation
5. Data Analysis Choices and the Fictional Representation of Narrative
6. Raising the Curtain on Sunnyside College
7. The Performance of Collegiality
8. The Fluidity in the Emerging Relations of Power
9. The Unfolding of Leadership Distribution
10. Bringing Down the Curtain?
11. Presenting Conclusions and Theorisations: The Quasi-Final Stage


“There are now many books about Foucault. This book uses Foucault and takes on the spirit and style of his method to explore the practice of institutional leadership. Drawing on Foucault’s interest in absurdist drama, Mifsud’s study examines some of the dramas of institutional life. In doing so she throws down a challenge to the orthodoxes of qualitative method.” –  Stephen J. Ball FBA, Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology of Education, UCL Institute of Education, UK

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