Violence between students in the learning environment is currently a central preoccupation of both educational institutions and state authorities. The question of violence between students will be apprehended in this symposium through a gendered lens.
3-4 Oct 2013 Lyon (France)

Gender and violence in scholastic and educational institutions

ARGUMENT

Violence between students in the learning environment is currently a central preoccupation of both educational institutions and state authorities. A widely mediatized topic, this has been the object of numerous research projects, and has generally incited abundant debate and discourse in the social arena. The suppositions on which this question lies deserve to be examined in detail: in what conditions can we speak about violence between students? Does it really exist, as we often describe, as the “discrepancy” between students and adults perspectives, norms and interpretations?

The importance of understanding what occurs between groups of peers is in our ability to highlight processes of mutual social learning that occur between the youths themselves. Indeed, the representatives of the institution, its very structure even, evidently influence the learning of students but we must also take the students’ mutual socialization into account.

The question of violence between students will be apprehended in this symposium through a gendered lens. Gender appears as a central component on multiple levels: because becoming a man or a woman is a central stake in the transformations and conflicts proper to adolescence; because sexual and family norms are a central stake to the relationships between generations; and because gender, and the circumstances inflicted upon women, constitutes a central stake for the differences of opinion between social and cultural groups. The question of violence and gender will be considered either directly or indirectly.

Directly, the gendered account of violence between students signifies that we will seek out in the field, of both scholastic and educational institutions:

  • How violence between peers concerns boys and girls (who is violent? Who is a victim? Is violence produced more between boys, between girls, between boys and girls? Are boys and girls violent in the same way, for the same reasons?)
  • How violence between peers involves masculinity or femininity, under construction among these adolescents. Does a, or multiple, youth cultures exist in terms of gender and sexuality (norms of sexual behaviour, love or sexual relationships, seduction, heterosexuality, etc.)? What are the cultural objects that are available to these youth cultures and what norms do these objects carry?

Indirectly, we could analyse the sex-gender system as a prototype for all relationships of domination, hierarchy and power, as a model of social relations that quietly institute, through practices and representations, the power relations that target certain categories, designated as weak. 

The central question of gender is also invested in the institutional approach to the problem. Violence in the school and educational settings are produced in a complex social context (youth faced with professional uncertainty, diversification of sexual and family values, etc.) in which the institutions act as fundamental spaces and actors and are themselves put, at certain times, into crisis. However, it is clear that girls and boys are not concerned in exactly the same ways by such multi-dimensional tensions.

THEMES

1/ Describe and define gender related violence and the discrepancies that exist between the practices, cultures and discourse of institutional actors: intergenerational discrepancies between youth and adults; discrepancies between the roles that adults play within the institution.

2/ Understand how school and educational institutions, and the interactions observed within them, participate in the construction of masculinities and femininities in a hierarchically structured social relationship; implying a supposedly different positioning between men and women in terms of the violence they act out and are subjected to.

3/ Understand the place of the sexual in the scholastic institutions, which excludes it by principal, and in the educational institutions where it is always problematic. Represent the questions of sexuality and love, as they are asked both by the youths and adults of the institution. How do the scholastic and educational institutions contribute to a social construction of sexuality through the incorporation of sexual models, and more precisely, through teaching heterosexuality? Measure the impact of such discriminations and violence, both sexual and related to gender, in this socialization process.

4/ Recognise and analyse the efficiency of measures that take into account: the relationships between students; the institutional and educational responses to gender related violence: prevention, sanctions, etc.

   

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