Foucault News

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

Goodley, C., Perryman, J.
Beyond the ‘terrors of performativity’: dichotomies, identities and escaping the panopticon
(2022) London Review of Education, 20 (1), art. no. 29

DOI: 10.14324/LRE.20.1.29

This article examines the influence of Stephen Ball’s work through the eyes of two former teachers turned academics who met through a mutual interest in his paper, ‘The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity’. We note our personal reactions to this particular paper and how Ball’s body of work has and continues to influence our thinking, careers and research. We note that his highly readable, provocative style of writing and passionate denunciation of league tables, inspections and the associated paraphernalia of control that appear central to neoliberal models of educational governance continue to prove useful in understanding global educational policy. This article also critically engages with the effects of such a seminal paper on the lived experience of the teaching profession. The first author argues that while Ball’s writing is useful to understand the pressures and struggles that teachers face, Ball’s use of Foucauldian notions such as ‘docile bodies’ and ‘subject-position’ can be seen to flatten out teachers, rendering them passive bystanders rather than agentic professionals. The second author revisits and recalls the influence of the paper on her early work, particularly on her concept of ‘panoptic performativity’, and the impact that the paper, and Stephen Ball’s work in general, continues to have on the wider field. © 2022, Claire Goodley and Jane Perryman.

Author Keywords
accountability; figured worlds theory; Michel Foucault; performativity; performativity; Stephen J. Ball; teachers

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