(Un)doing old boy: performativity at the intersection of elitism, masculinity, and privilege

PhD Thesis

Meiklejohn, Cameron A. M.. 2022. (Un)doing old boy: performativity at the intersection of elitism, masculinity, and privilege. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/q7q68

(Un)doing old boy: performativity at the intersection of elitism, masculinity, and privilege

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorMeiklejohn, Cameron A. M.
1. FirstA/Pr Stewart Riddle
2. SecondProf Andrew Hickey
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages269
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/q7q68

Elite boys' schools in Australia have been increasingly scrutinised for the elitism, hyper-masculinity, and privilege inherent within these institutions. This has occurred at a time of cultural and social change, during which elites and elitism have been investigated and interrogated more broadly. Given that the men who emerge from elite boys' schools will likely be placed in positions of power and influence, it is necessary to understand their perspectives on elitism, masculinity, and privilege. Drawing on three case studies that investigated the discursive mediation of masculine subjectivity at the intersection of elitism and privilege, as well as additional material produced from in-depth interviews, this thesis examines how a group of elite boys' school alumni have reconciled schooling experiences that endorsed attitudes, behaviours, and values which are out-of-step with modern society. It explores the meanings of elite boys' schooling experiences and their application as discursive resources in the process of reflecting on, and re-evaluating, what to keep and what to reject in contemporary formations of selfhood. Further, this thesis considers how these peculiar schooling experiences are reconfigured to align with the contemporary values of gender equality, social inclusion, and workplace diversity. The research addresses how the positionality of these men is the product of a complex rendering that combines parental aspirations and wishes, which are realised through elite school choice, conformity with elite school practices and images of well-rounded studenthood, and the role of elite schools in the making of 'men'. The research indicates that disavowal is used as a technique to demonstrate individual capacity and capability, while obscuring the advantages and opportunities acquired from a schooling experience that was economically privileged. Through creating and maintaining the appearance of being morally good, honestly sincere, and well-rounded, disavowal is a performative act that cultivates an appearance that positions the research participants as having emerged from an elite and privileged environment, while not being personally elitist nor entitled. This thesis encourages a more complex understanding of elite masculinities, including the multitude of possibilities surrounding the ways in which men make sense of, and respond to, various forms of privilege. In accounting for disavowal as a technique for asserting virtue and well-roundedness, this research also supports an understanding of how the discursive mediation of self is performed.

Keywordselite schools; masculinity; privilege; disavowal; poststructuralism
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390203. Sociology of education
390406. Gender, sexuality and education
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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Education
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