Science Speaker Series: Louise Archer, King's College London


Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 12:00pm


133F Erickson Hall

‘Can the subaltern do science?’ Minoritized students’ struggles for intelligibility in the secondary science classroom

In this talk, I will draw on Judith Butler’s concepts of intelligibility and identity as performance to make sense of the subjectivities of ‘subaltern’ (minoritized) students within school science. Understanding classrooms as constituted by complex power struggles (for voice, authenticity, and recognition), I ask: which student identities are unintelligible in these spaces? And what are the implications for participation in school science? Analyzing data from 9 months of observations conducted with 9 teachers and c. 200 students aged 11-15 from six London schools, and 13 discussion groups with 59 of these students, I will discuss how two dominant racialized and gendered identity performances (of ‘muscular intellect’ and ‘heterosexist masculinity’) can silence and limit the science engagement of others, but particularly minoritized girls. Focusing on an urban school serving a predominantly South Asian Muslim community, I will explain how some boys’ performances of science and Muslim masculinity can enact and sustain this silencing. I will conclude by reflecting on the implications for research and practice with urban, minoritized youth, considering challenges for funds of knowledge perspectives, and how we might create conditions that allow ‘subalterns’ (as heterogeneously conceptualized) to ‘speak’ for themselves in ways that open up equitable identity possibilities in science for all youth.


Louise Archer is Professor of Education at King’s College London (KCL), where she is head of the Science & Technology Education Group and co-chair of the Centre for Research in Education in STEM (CRESTEM). She is director of the ASPIRES and ASPIRES2 projects ( and KCL director for the Enterprising Science project, in partnership with BP and the Science Museum.