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Mar 29

Unmanageable Subjects: Trans Childhoods and the Struggle for Self-Determination at School

March 29, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm CDT

ISLS Speaker Series: Harper B. Keenan

Part of the Researching for More Just Futures: An ISLS Speaker Series

ABSTRACT: In the midst of “Don’t Say Gay” legislation banning early elementary school teachers from discussing gender and sexuality with their students, the United States is embroiled in controversy over the meaning of gender in civic life and education. Early elementary school represents a period in the life course when the majority of children begin spending most of their time in public institutions, which feature a variety of messages about what it means to participate in public space. Within this context, the conditions surrounding transgender and gender non-conforming youth in education raise fundamental questions about the institutional regulation of childhood and the function of schooling in shaping the terrain of civic life. In this presentation, I argue that trans people are positioned as unmanageable subjects within the context of K-12 schools in the United States. This phrase has an intentional double meaning, referencing 1) the treatment of transgender existence as a taboo topic, and 2) the challenges trans children pose to the administrative and social regulation of gender. How might educators embrace unmanageability? What might it look like to practice civic education that resists rigidly scripting the world, including who children are allowed to be and become within it? To engage with these questions, I present emergent findings drawn from my recent multi-site qualitative study of five early elementary school classrooms and one LGBT-led after school program in the San Francisco Unified School District, which included more than 50 interviews and 10 inquiry groups with teachers, 30 play-based inquiry groups with children, as well as over 500 hours of participant observation.

Harper B. Keenan

Harper B. Keenan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia. He currently serves as the inaugural Robert Quartermain Professor of Gender and Sexuality in Education. Dr. Keenan’s scholarship examines how adults and children relate to each other within the structures of schooling and other educational contexts, and what their interactions reveal about the possibilities and challenges of civic education. His research has been supported by a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation postdoctoral fellowship, the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council, and the Roddenberry Foundation. Dr. Keenan earned a Ph.D. from the Stanford Graduate School of Education, a dual M.S. Ed. in Childhood Special and General Education from Bank Street College, and a B.A. from Eugene Lang College at The New School. His scholarship has been published in a variety of academic journals, including the Harvard Educational Review, Educational Researcher, Teachers College Record, Curriculum Inquiry, and Gender and Education. He has also written op-eds or been interviewed by popular press outlets like Teen Vogue, Them, NPR, Reuters, NBC National News, EdWeek, and Slate. Dr. Keenan is a proud former New York City elementary school teacher.

Moderators: Dylan Pare and Ben Kennedy.

The talk will take place 12–13:30 CST, 18–19:30 GMT
Find your timezone here: https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?msg=Unmanageable+Subjects


March 29, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm CDT
Event Category:


ISLS & Wallace