Charlotte Nussey
Agency through narrative: resistances and negotiations in the stories of Maasai teenagers.

Author: Charlotte Nussey, Institute of Education,

Title: “Agency through narrative: resistances and negotiations in the stories of Maasai teenagers”

This paper reflects on findings from qualitative research conducted over four months, at a rural NGO school in a Maasai community in Monduli district, Tanzania. The research aimed to start to address the paucity of studies exploring students’ lived realities of schooling in Tanzania, focusing on processes of agency and empowerment in and through education. The main research question, ‘in what ways are pedagogical processes concerned with empowerment realised in a Tanzanian classroom,’ was therefore explored with a range of ethnographic methods, looking at the whole school setting, but particularly focusing upon the construction of gendered and ethnic identities within a Form III class. This paper first sets out some theoretical notions of agency, particularly those offered by the Capability Approach and by Naila Kabeer, and then explores these within the context of the students’ and teachers’ emergent notions of agency. The paper then explores two key spaces in which gendered norms, and their intersections with ethnic identities, were resisted or negotiated through expressions of student agency. The first was a writing task which drew on students’ own experience, and the second was in engagement with an English literature curriculum text which they felt was relevant to their own lives, and which offered them a variety of positive role models. This paper will draw on a range of data including students’ essays and interviews to show how these two tasks were key ways of developing students’ critical consciousness.

The DARE Collaborative is a research partnership focused on the digital arts in education, led by the UCL Institute of Education and the British Film Institute. It has a membership of university researchers, teachers and educators in cultural organisations with an interest in arts, media, culture and new literacies in the context of education and digital media.
Centro en Investigación Avanzada en Educación