Managing the ‘popular girl’ and ‘challenges at home’ discourses at secondary school: the perspectives of 12-14 year old girls, predominantly from lower-income White British families

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This article explores the perspectives of 23 girls in their second and third years (12-14 years) at four English secondary schools. Having tracked the girls since their final year of primary school (10-11 years), the article explores how they continue to negotiate powerful discourses in their lives. It uses a Foucauldian framework (1979) to explore the potential for a ‘plurality of resistances’, initially focusing on how girls reached a ‘compromise’ with the dominant ‘popular’ girl discourse through the adoption of what was described as a ‘middle person’ discourse, as well as examples where a ‘compromise’ was not achieved. The article continues by exploring a sub-sample of 12 girls - predominantly from lower-income White British families - who were negotiating the ‘popular girl’ discourse with an additional intersecting ‘challenges at home’ discourse. It explores where Foucauldian part-‘resistance’ and ‘compromise’ was possible for the girls, and where it was not. This article is significant in that it focuses on the intersection of powerful discourses from the perspectives of some of the most vulnerable members of our school communities. In recognising the girls’ challenging positions, the article identifies practical strategies for supporting this group more widely in school.

© 2019, Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The attached document (embargoed until 22/10/2020) is an author produced version of a paper published in RESEARCH PAPERS IN EDUCATION uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link below. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberIn press
Pages (from-to)1-50
Number of pages50
VolumeIn press
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2019


  • girls; discourse; popular; challenges at home; power; resistance

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