• Omar Kaissi

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis reports on the Researching Corporeality in Education (RCiE) project, a qualitative investigation into knowledge production in Gender and Education (G&E) research on boys and masculinities in schools in the UK, primarily, Australia and North America, within the field of education in higher education. The project is centrally concerned with the present state and future continuity of corporeal knowing, that is, knowing for, about and through the body, in G&E research. The aim of the investigation is to examine both the existing knowledge base regarding boys’ gender identity formation and the academic career and life histories of G&E scholars in order to construct a collective story of scholarship in the field of education that makes visible the theoretical, ideological and political challenges undermining corporeal knowing in the current neoliberal era. Moreover, the project uses critical realism as a methodology and is divided into two phases. The first phase explores knowing and knowledge using document data generated through an integrative literature review of empirical research outputs. The second phase explores knowing and knowers using data generated from semi-structured interviews with eight G&E scholars. Two sets of thinking tools based on Margaret Archer and Pierre Bourdieu’s theories of social reality and practice are deployed to analyse and interpret the interview data. The project findings, explanations and insights are reported in four chapters styled and formatted as journal articles. Chapters four and five comprise the first and second journal article outputs from the RCiE project. These chapters reveal limitations and challenges of a theoretical and ideological nature and make the following two main arguments. The first is that the shift from sociological to social theory in the field has intensified epistemological disputation regarding the role of the overemphasis on agency in obscuring social structures and, in turn, the need for de-individualising, corporeal-structural links in gender analysis. The second argument is that G&E scholars are entrapped within representationism, defined as a condition of uncertainty regarding how to balance between the participation and protection of children in research in ways that prevent over-protectionist public- and policy-led discourses from obstructing participation, which is integral to corporeal knowing. Chapters six and seven comprise the third and fourth journal article outputs from the RCiE projects. Using interview data, these chapters reveal challenges of a political nature. Here, too, two main arguments are made. The first is that, due to performative regimes that exacerbate self- and body-alienation, scholars’ predisposition toward intellectuality may come to function, rather paradoxically, as a limitation to corporeal knowing. The second argument, more in relation to scholars as higher education practitioners than individual knowers, is that intellectualist (idea-driven) dispositions in the field of education are being systematically de-privileged to put an end to any type of complex, such as corporeal-based, knowledge that fails the test of economic viability. Collectively, these arguments convey the sociological bondedness of G&E scholars, in the sense that, despite their disagreements, they confront the same set of internally and externally imposed challenges to/constraints on their agency of knowing in the field. In chapter eight, in addition to revealing and explaining this bondedness through the means of a collective story of scholarship, I present a general framework for corporeal-epistemic reflexivity that aims at unbondedness, that is, how to approach positioning in the field with more strategic awareness of the challenges involved. Also, in this final chapter, I provide a summary of main findings, draw conclusions and set out in detail the RCiE project’s contributions and recommendations for future research.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHelen Gunter (Supervisor) & Steven Courtney (Supervisor)


  • higher education
  • corporeality
  • boys and masculinities
  • knowledge production
  • education
  • gender and education research

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