A community college's performance of ‘organisation’: it's a drag!

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Studies in the Education of Adults, 2010, 42 (1), pp. 18 - 33
Issue Date:
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© 2010, © 2010 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC. Noting the ever-increasing encroachment of discourses and practices from the private sector on public education providers, this paper argues that such organizations exist within competing sets of differences that seek to define and fix the meaning of ‘education’ and ‘business’. We report on fieldwork conducted in an adult education college in Sydney. In the Australian context these colleges are referred to as community colleges and their history is one based in a strong liberal tradition. Utilising Judith Butler's idea of ‘drag’ we consider the effects of changing modes of governance in the college with specific reference to the stories told to us about it. Our discussion suggests that the organisation was caught between identifying itself with a masculinised discourse of business and a discourse of community cast as its feminised other. In navigating between these, the college was seen to perform as a ‘drag king’—an organisation performing the masculine but in so doing, undoing its gendered status. This leads us to suggest that the incorporation of business and market-based discourse into the management of community education is something that is actively resisted and undermined through such forms of gendered transgression. We conclude by proposing that this organization's capacity to perform drag is a contributing factor to its overall success, and particularly in an economic climate where many not-for-profit organisations are floundering.
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