Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

The Dynamics of Violence in Primary School

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

The Dynamics of Violence in Primary School

Article excerpt

The aim of this article is to analyze the way in which violence emerges in school institutions, describing the conditions in which it is produced and reproduced; together with characterizing the dynamics and effects it has on individuals from a gender perspective. Parents, teachers, and students were interviewed in order to have an approach from different perspectives, places of residence, opinions, positions, and ways in which school violence is experienced daily. In this study, ethnographic methods are used, jointly with interpretation tools. The records cited come mainly from two public elementary schools located in Mexico City, yet there are testimonies included that were collected from different parts of Mexico between 1997 and 2007, in the framework of a broad study on violence in elementary and secondary school.


Violence in Mexico has stopped being a rare phenomenon in schools; it is common to hear reports of children and youth showing aggression toward their classmates and teachers, carrying hidden weapons, selling and using drugs or stealing other students' belongings.

Analysis of everyday life at different institutions also has made it clear that it is a space in which diverse interpersonal relations are engendered. These processes often go unnoticed, even by the actors themselves, but have a major significance. The institutional narrative that is "written" daily touches on different aspects and fields of activity. The story of the school turns into a plot that is hard to understand at first sight. Even though the objectives of the institution are well known by all its members, it is not always clear how to achieve them or even attempt to do so, and it is precisely in the fulfillment of those objectives that more violence than is usually acknowledged has been incorporated. For example, in the family, where respect and support among its members should prevail, there is an increasing climate of violence and abuse, as there is in school, a setting where violence has always been present but has increased alarmingly in recent times. Violence in schools has been kept a secret, concealed, "as a reflection of the effectiveness of the institutional resources to preserve what happens indoors" (Kaës, 1996, p. 91), yet its effects lead us to reflect on this phenomenon, in order to look for alternatives to prevent it and improve coexistence between students and teachers.

The school should be acknowledged as "a complex and dynamic socializing agency where tension and diverse representations of gender coexist; as the arena of struggles and resistance where rules, values and normal and abnormal practices are created" (Flores, 2005). From a gender perspective, the curriculum is clearly differentiated into an explicit curriculum and a hidden curriculum - the latter consisting of those messages transmitted and learned at school without the mediation of an explicit or deliberate intent, and of whose transmission teachers and students may or may not be aware. That set of myths, beliefs, and norms that one way or another establishes the structures of relations and behaviours, constituting a form of violence.

In the daily life of classrooms and schools, the phenomenon of social and cultural reproduction encompasses, among other things, the trace of a "dominant" culture that runs through the different social practices and is reflected in language, in rules, and in social and school relations. A series of behaviours and attitudes that are "accepted" in some sectors favouring a patriarchal-sounding discourse of masculinity "as an illegitimate use of power associated to a conception that holds women in low esteem..." (Barragán, 2001, p. 22).


This article is based on various interviews and observations with individuals who have experienced, exercised, or suffered the consequences of violence at school. Unlike most of the studies on this subject, undertaken mainly in Europe,1 this study is based on a qualitative methodology using ethnographic methods (Stubbs and Delamont, 1978) and displaying an interpretative mode 2 (Woods, 1988; Hammersley and Atkinson, 1994). …

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