Gendering the discourse of inclusion: the performance of a SENCO identity?

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This paper will discuss data collected from a series of focus groups and individual life history narrative interviews conducted with Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs). Initial findings indicate that these individuals view themselves as having different attributes and practices to other teachers; they identify themselves as being more caring and on the side of their pupils (Woolhouse, 2012). To unpick this further I question if the narratives the SENCOs tell can be identified as performances of identity that draw upon a gendered discourse of inclusion. I take inspiration from Judith Butler (1990) as a departure point for analysis because she positions performance as a practice of power and form of resistance, arguing that normalising practices which inscribe gender on identities can be taken as ‘sites of contestation and revision’ (Butler, 1990:145). My discussion is twofold. First I explore how SENCOs’ performances engage with a discourse of inclusion that draws upon constructs of feminised caring to materialise what Butler terms an ‘intelligible identity’: an identity that SENCOs might recognise and align themselves with. I also consider the difficulties created by such gendered constructions. Secondly, I identify how some SENCOs narrate their role as involving gender neutral practice, and/or adopt a change focused warrior persona. I go on to consider how warrior narratives might start to decouple the SENCO identity from gender and provide potential sites for contestation and revision regarding what it means to work in the area of inclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventDiscourse, Power and Resistance Conference - University of Greenwich, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Apr 201311 Apr 2013


ConferenceDiscourse, Power and Resistance Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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