The Power of Things! A ‘New’ Ontology of Sexuality at School

  • Louisa Allen


This chapter contributes to the mapping of a ‘new’ ontology of sexuality at school. Drawing on new feminist materialist thinking from Barad (Meeting the universe halfway: quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Duke University Press, Durhman, 2007), Bennett (The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Polit Theo 32(3):347–372, 2004) and Lenz Taguchi (2013), it analyses photographs from a project on the sexual cultures of schooling in a way that takes ‘things’ or ‘matter’ seriously. Seeking to disrupt the idea that humans represent the only site for, and expression of sexuality, it explores how matter and meaning are co-constitutive in sexuality’s becoming at school. Instead of seeing sexuality as discursively constituted through a plethora of schooling processes and practices, another proposition is offered. Sexuality does not pre-exist matter/meaning but comes into being via their relation.


  1. Alaimo, S., & Hekman, S. (2008). Introduction: Emerging models of materiality in feminist theory. In S. Alaimo & S. Hekman (Eds.), Material feminisms (pp. 1–19). Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, L. (2005). Sexual subjects: Young people, sexuality and education. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen, L. (2009a). Snapped: Researching the sexual culture of schools using visual methods. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 22(5), 549–561.Google Scholar
  4. Allen, L. (2009b). Caught in the act: Ethics committee review and researching the sexual culture of schools. Qualitative Research, 9(4), 395–410.Google Scholar
  5. Allen, L. (2011). Young people and sexuality education: Rethinking key debates. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Allen, L. (2013a). Behind the bike sheds: Sexual geographies of schooling. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(1), 56–75.Google Scholar
  7. Allen, L. (2013b). Sexual assemblages: Mobile phones/Young people/School. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(2). doi: 10.1080/01596306.2013.846901Google Scholar
  8. Allen, L. (2014). Tau(gh)t bodies: Student sexual embodiment and schooling. In K. Fitzpatrick & R. Tinning (Eds.), Health education: Critical perspectives (pp. 89–104). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Banks, M. (2001). Visual methods in social research. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Barad, K. (1999). Agential realism: Feminist interventions in understanding scientific practices. In M. Biagioli (Ed.), The science studies reader (pp. 1–11). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28(3), 801–831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durhman: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Barad, K. (2012). Nature’s queer performativity (the authorised version). Women, Gender and Research, 1(2), 25–53.Google Scholar
  14. Bennett, J. (2004). The force of things: Steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory, 32(3), 347–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Blaise, M. (2013). Activating micropolitical practices in the early years: (Re)assembling bodies and participant observations. In R. Coleman & J. Ringrose (Eds.), Deleuze and research methodologies (pp. 184–200). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Colebrook, C. (2002). Understanding Deleuze. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  18. Dolphijn, R., & van der Tuin, I. (2012). New materialism: Interviews and cartographies. Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Epstein, D., & Johnson, R. (1998). Schooling sexualities. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Ferfolja, T. (2008). Discourses that silence: Teachers and anti-lesbian harassment. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 29(1), 107–119.Google Scholar
  21. Fox, N., & Alldred, P. (2013). The sexuality-assemblage: Desire, affect, anti-humanism. The Sociological Review, 61, 769–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Haraway, D. (1997). Modest_witness@_millennium.FemaleMan©_meets_OncoMouse™: Feminism and technoscience. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Hilton, G. (2003). Listening to the Boys: English boys’ views on the desirable characteristics of teachers of sex education. Sex Education, 3(1), 33–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hultman, K., & Lenz Taguchi, H. (2010). Challenging anthropocentric analysis of visual data: A relational materialist methodological approach to educational research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23(5), 525–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jones, A., & Hoskins, T. (2013, July 22–26). Object lessons: Vital materiality and indigenous-settler engagement. Keynote Presentation, Summer Institute in Qualitative Research, Manchester Metropolitan University.Google Scholar
  26. Lambevski, S. (2005). Bodies, schizo vibes and hallucinatory desires. Sexualities, 8(5), 570–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lenz Taguchi, H. (2012). A diffractive and Deleuzian approach to analysing interview data. Feminist Theory, 13(3), 265–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lenz Taguchi, H. (2013). ‘Images of thinking in feminist materialisms: ontological divergences and the production of researcher subjectivities’. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), 706–716.Google Scholar
  29. Lenz Taguchi, H., & Palmer, A. (2013). A more ‘livable’ school? A diffractive analysis of the performative enactments of girls’ ill-/well-being with(in) school environments. Gender and Education, 25(6), 671–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. MacLure, M. (2013a). Classification or wonder? Coding as an analytic practice in qualitative research. In R. Coleman, & J. Ringrose (Eds.), Deleuze and research methodologies (pp. 164–183). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  31. MacLure, M. (2013b). Researching without representation? Language and materiality in post-qualitative methodology. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), 658–667.Google Scholar
  32. Measor, L., Tiffin, C., & Miller, K. (2000). Young people’s views on sex education: Education, attitudes and behaviour. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  33. Plummer, K. (2008). Studying sexualities for a better world? Ten years of sexualities. Sexualities: Studies in Culture and Society, 11(1/2), 7–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rose, G. (2007). Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual Materials (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Scholer, A. (2002). Sexuality in the science classroom: One teacher’s methods in a college biology course. Sex Education, 2(1), 75–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sears, J. (Ed.). (1992). Sexuality and the curriculum: The politics and practices of sexuality education. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  37. Taylor, C., & Ivinson, G. (2013). Material feminisms: New directions for education. Gender and Education, 25(6), 665–670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Open Access This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louisa Allen
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Education and Social WorkUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations