Defending a castle under siege: A critical examination of the British counter-extremism in schools strategy
This thesis offers a critical analysis of the underlying logic of Britain’s counter-extremism in schools strategy. It begins with a foundational concern regarding the emphasis placed on countering ideology in countering extremism, and the challenge facing educationalists to both promote a consensus around moderate values, while also promoting value diversity and pluralism. The thesis finds the strategy contested and contradictory - how can a school develop critical thinking while also promoting a fixed set of values? The thesis deconstructs these contradictory components of counter-extremism education, in order to critically examine the political realms of extremism and counter-extremism: what is the world after extremism that the strategy is hoping to bring about? Through exploring the lessons plans, PowerPoint presentations and worksheets used in classrooms, and deploying a method of critical discourse analysis, this thesis asks: how do the contested and contradictory objectives of counter-extremism education manifest in the teaching materials designed to fulfil the strategy? Adopting a deconstructionist, discourse analysis approach, and through the lenses of ideograph theory, securitisation theory, critical race theory, and the theory of agonism, this analysis uncovers what I term a ‘siege mentality’. The moderate centre is painted as being threatened and under attack from a poorly-defined notion of extremism, and must be defended at all costs. This securitisation of education, tasked with securing the moderate centre from attack, leads to a realm of exceptional politics in which the very values that are being defended - those of liberal democracy - are being suspended for their own protection. Values that stray too far from a moderate consensus are portrayed as ‘extreme’, and the modes of subjectivity deemed permissible within the ‘moderate’ are narrow, restrictive and racialised. The thesis finishes by asking how else this siege mentality could be conceptualised. Through replacing the consensus central to current conceptualisations of counter-extremism (that once everyone agrees with the moderate, there will be no extremism), with a pluralistic acceptance of diversity and conflict, the thesis sets out how a conceptual framework of agonism can offer new ways of, not countering, but encountering extremism.
Advisor: Jackson, Richard; Standish, Katerina
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Prevent; terrorism; extremism; counter-extremism; counter-terrorism; agonism; education; PVE; CVE
Research Type: Thesis