Unreasonable rage, disobedient dissent

The social construction of student activists and the limits of student engagement

in Learning and Teaching
Jessica Gagnon University of Portsmouth Jessica.Gagnon@port.ac.uk

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This article explores the limits of student engagement in higher education in the United Kingdom through the social construction of student activists within media discourses. It scrutinises the impact of dominant neoliberal discourses on the notion of student engagement, constructing certain students as legitimately engaged whilst infantilising and criminalising those who participate in protest. Exploring media coverage of and commentary on students engaged in activism, from the 2010 protests against university fee increases and from more recent activism in 2016, the article draws upon Sara Willful Subjects and Imogen Revolting Subjects to examine critically the ways in which some powerful discourses control and limit which activities, practices and voices can be recognised as legitimate forms of student engagement.

Contributor Notes

Jessica Gagnon is a first-generation student from a working-class, American, single-mother family. She is deeply committed to equality and diversity in higher education. She is an educational sociologist with a PhD in Education from the University of Sussex. She is a Senior Research Fellow focused on higher education at the University of Portsmouth. E-mail: Jessica.Gagnon@port.ac.uk

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Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences


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