Paper delivered at the Development in Education in Asia Research Seminars 2022, Centre for Research in Education in Asia, University of Bath - 23rd February 2022
Dr Michael Mu, Senior researcher and associate professor, University of South Australia
Social reality, according to the social philosopher Pierre Bourdieu, exists in relations. Social agents, children included, venture into differentiating social fields such as education configured with positional advantage vis-à-vis positional disadvantage. Much Bourdieu-informed research grapples with the structural forces behind the positional disadvantage of certain child populations. Yet the sole focus on the deficient life circumstances of children has mostly been to justify their existing vulnerability. This deficit model once drew my work into the mire. It was the life strengths of rural-to-urban floating children in China and children with diverse backgrounds in Australia that emancipated my work from child pathology. These children, similar to the “invincible” young people in Emmy Werner’s longitudinal study, delve into a journey of resilience that powerfully transforms risks into opportunities. In this presentation, I first provide a panoramic overview of my research with floating children in China that prompted me to study resilience. I then discuss resilience from a multi-disciplinary perspective and construe resilience as a highly contentious human construct. To extend these existing schools, I sociologise resilience through Bourdieu. Resilience thus construed is not merely an adaptive strategy in context of adversity but also a critical epistemology to probe the structural constraints behind adversity. I present part of my multi-year resilience research with Australian children, which leads to the Multi-Rs Resilience Model composed of Reconciliation, Recalcitrance, Retreat, Redirection, Reconstruction, and Reflexivity. I conclude the presentation with an invitation to rethink child and youth resilience sociologically for the purpose of educational change and reconsider Bourdieu as a theorist of social transformation.