Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

Bullying - Transformative Potentiality?

Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

Bullying - Transformative Potentiality?

Article excerpt


In this article, I argue that a person 's experience of having been bullied as a child can hold transformative potentiality. This means that childhood exposure to bullying can both produce negative effects and provide fuel for transformative intention and actions. By exploring two separate narratives, I demonstrate how these individuals ' different ways of handling past incidents are entangled with both present and future, as well as how they are closely connected to both the specific situations and contexts in which the person lives and his/her movements across such situations and contexts. The concept of dynamic effectuality is introduced to describe this phenomenon. Furthermore, I claim that, by analysing the dynamic effectuality of individuals ' past experiences with bullying and their present adult lives, certain processes can be found - including revenge, transformative intention and collective transformative actions.


In my understanding, humans are continuously striving towards certain goals in life: they are engaged in life projects. Such projects can have a very different character - from personal to more political or societal. They are not necessarily planned or thoroughly reflected upon and rational, although they certainly can be (Bertelsen 2010; Mathiassen 2004). Thus, each person has different opportunities, and my point of departure in this article is that a person has both a choice and directedness in life that are continuously influenced by the opportunities and challenges presented in and across specific situations. This is a general characteristic of the human being in society: a person is bom into a culture, into a society, into specific conditions that present different life settings, possibilities and challenges - and these must be understood as dialectically entwined with the more general and human characteristic of being engaged in the world.

Because individuals are embedded within socio-cultural conditions, a person and his/her specific life setting can be seen as intrinsically entwined; thus, to an adult person, the meaning and implications of childhood bullying should be examined in relation to the way that particular person is engaged in life. This includes how the person directs him- or herself towards other people, towards him- or herself and towards activities in general - and also which engagements or projects appear to be relevant and meaningful to him/her. For example, does he/she seem somehow restricted due to the bullying he/she experienced during childhood, or does he/she instead participate in life in an active and liberated way? Is childhood bullying an experience that leaves traces and remains operative in the life of an adult? And if yes - how? Trying to answer such questions necessitates an analytical consideration of the specific settings and situations in which a person leads his/her life, and the challenges and conflicts he/she faces in these contexts. Furthermore, and inspired by Dreier (2008), I find it analytically relevant to examine how the person in question moves across situations and settings in order to follow a process of potential transformation or change.

In this article, I argue that there is transformative potentiality in individuals' experiences with childhood exclusion and bullying, and it must be understood as being intimately connected to the individual's different life settings, specific challenges, discourses, etc., in his or her life. I further argue that, while some people are strongly constrained by their earlier traumatic experiences with bullying, others engage in life projects that are directed towards transforming their negative experiences into useful and productive actions. One could contend that this approach is also relevant when it comes to other negative or even traumatic experiences that occurred during childhood; for instance, the loss of a parent or other close relation. But, in this article, the central focus of my analysis is bullying. …

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