Why do bullying practices occur within groups of children (and adults)? Is it because the group happens to be populated with particularly aggressive and squeamish individuals? This paper suggests an alternative approach. Working from Karen Barad’s conceptual framework based on intra-active enactment of discursive-material phenomena, and Judith Butler’s further development of the concept of abjection, I argue bullying to be an effect of the anxiety about social exclusion. That anxiety follows intra-action among a variety of social, cultural, psychological and material forces in schools. The mechanisms associated with this anxiety include a longing to soothe the discomfort. The soothing strategy may be realised in a common production of contempt, which builds community for some children who take up abjecting and othering practices. The abject may vary from particular subject positionings, particular kinds of matter (clothes, belongings), interests etc. – but will always involve individuals as representatives for and/or positioned as the abject being.
bullying in school; social exclusion anxiety; material-discursive intra-activity; Karen Barad
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Seventh International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, 2011