‘Spatializing’ the sociology of education

Stand-points, entry-points, vantage-points1

Authored by: Susan L. Robertson

The Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Education

Print publication date:  December  2009
Online publication date:  December  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415486637
eBook ISBN: 9780203863701
Adobe ISBN: 9781135179717


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This chapter explores the implications of an absence of a critical spatial lens in the conceptual grammar of the field of the sociology of education. I argue that it is not sufficient to simply bring a spatial lexicon to our conceptual sentences (as in ‘geographies’ of classroom emotions; the school as a ‘place’; communities of practice). This is to fetishize space, leaving a particular medium of power, projects and politics – space – to go unnoticed. Rather, to apply a critical spatial lens to the sociology of education means seeing the difference that space, along with time and sociality – the two privileged angles of view in modernity – makes to our understanding of contemporary knowledge formation, social reproduction and the constitution of subjectivities (Massey, 2005: 62; Soja, 1996: 71). By tracing out the ways in which space is deeply implicated in power, production and social relations, I hope to reveal the complex processes at work in constituting the social relations of ‘education space’ as a crucial site, object, instrument and outcome in this process. A ‘critical’ spatial lens in the sociology of education involves three moves: one, an outline of the ontological and epistemological premises of a critical theory of space; two, the specification of the central objects for enquiry to education and society; and three, bringing these theoretical and conceptual approaches together to open up an entry point for investigation, a vantage point from which to see education–society phenomena anew, and a standpoint from which to see how education space is produced and how it might be changed.

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