Theses Doctoral

Teacher Strikes as Education: The West Virginia Teacher Strikes Framed by a Theory of Counter-Conduct, Performativity, and Aesthetics

Hardman, Sara Elizabeth

The success of teacher strikes is often analyzed according to tangible outcomes, such as salary gains or the prevention of privatization bills. The point of this dissertation, however, is to argue that there are significant intangible outcomes as well. Using the West Virginia teacher strikes of 2018 and 2019 as a case study, I argue that the intangible outcomes of teacher strikes comprise a political-aesthetic education that expands the possibilities for how teachers can live within a neoliberal and patriarchal context.

To do this, I develop a theoretical framework using three disparate yet nested concepts: counter-conduct, as used by Michel Foucault; performativity, as used by Judith Butler; and aesthetics, including everyday aesthetics, as used by Yuriko Saito, and somaesthetics, as used by Richard Shusterman. With this theoretical framework, I analyze the West Virginia teacher strikes as both political manifestations and aesthetic experiences. I collected data on the strikes through teachers’ written and spoken first-personal narratives, media interviews, academic books and articles, podcasts, videos, and images.

Ultimately, I find that in their strikes, the West Virginia teachers performed counter-conduct against particular characteristics expected of them under neoliberalism and patriarchy. Even though not articulated or asserted, this counter-conduct could be aesthetically experienced through the sensuous and felt dimensions of the strikes. Teachers could feel, see, and hear the performance of alternative ways of being. This experience led to an expansion of possibilities for how teachers live as educators and as persons, even without dismantling the governmentalities of neoliberalism and patriarchy.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Philosophy and Education
Thesis Advisors
Laverty, Megan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 4, 2022