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Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

The Centre for Media and Culture in Education (CMCE) at OISE / University of Toronto Presents:

Session 2 of the 2013 - 2014 Works in Progress Seminar Series


Friday, January 24, 2:00 – 4:00 pm


Ontario Institute for Studies in Education | University of Toronto

252 Bloor St. West | (@ St. George Subway Station) | 12th Floor, Room 12 – 274


This event is wheelchair accessible.


The Emotional Geographies of Childhood Studies: Theorizing Beyond Binaries

A talk by Dr. Kate Cairns

Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Sociology

University of Toronto



Young people are increasingly viewed as the inheritors of a “risk society,” responsible for their own uncertain futures. A growing literature critically examines how neoliberal discourses are reshaping educational policy and curriculum, and warns of the rise of a new student-subject characterized by ideals of flexibility, mobility and entrepreneurial capacity. While theorizing at the level of policy discourse sheds light on the dominant rationalities shaping systems of education, this work reveals little about how these discourses become meaningful in the context of schooling. In this presentation, I share the results of an ethnographic study exploring how rural young people envision their futures in neoliberal times. Engaging critically with Foucauldian theories of the neoliberal subject, this research generates new insights into neoliberalism and education, and demonstrates how neoliberal discourses are spatially organized and affectively negotiated. I argue that these insights extend beyond this specific study, to highlight the crucial work of theorizing beyond binaries in childhood studies. To this end, I propose that we have much to gain by analyzing the emotional geographies of childhood studies scholarship, in order to interrogate the work of our own scholarly attachments.


Kate Cairns is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research seeks to understand how social inequality is reproduced and experienced, spanning the areas of gender, culture, and education. Kate has explored this question across diverse sites — from rural schooling to food politics — engaging feminist and critical social theory in dialogue with empirical research. She is currently investigating educational initiatives that seek to reconnect young people to their food, and is collaborating with Josée Johnston on a book exploring themes of gender, food, and inequality.


Choosing the Arts: The Moral Regulation of Parents in the Educational Marketplace

A Talk by Adam Saifer

PhD Student

Cultural Studies Program

Queen’s University



The neoliberal turn in Canadian public education positions the parent as a consumer within an expanding educational marketplace. While this shift toward a market ideology is premised on the notion that the free market is best suited to promote equity, there is a growing scholarly literature that critiques these claims. Critics highlight how a larger choice arena creates additional opportunities for socially advantaged parents to mobilize their resources to secure, and further, their child’s advantages. And yet, by focusing exclusively on the intergenerational transmission and accumulation of capital, this framework of analysis—while extremely important—fails to explore the role that educational choice plays in producing parent subjectivities. In this paper, I explore how parents at one specialized arts high school construct notions of the “good/moral” parent and the “bad/immoral” parent around the decision to “choose the arts,” and how these categories work to reinforce dominant race, class, and gender hierarchies in the context of this school. By shining a spotlight on one subsection of the educational marketplace, I hope to illuminate how educational choice is not solely about shaping the material and symbolic conditions of the child; it is about producing parent subjectivities as well.



Adam Saifer is a PhD student at Queen's University in the department of Cultural Studies. His current research looks at community spaces that mobilize the arts pedagogically. Specifically, he is interested in how "the arts" shape the lived experiences of participants in these spaces.