Panel K.01 — “6 in condotta”. Critical approaches to youth deviance, School conflicts, and the school as institution of control

Convenors Andrea Caroselli (Università di Napoli L’Orientale); Fabio Bertoni (ICS – Universidade de Lisboa)

Keywords deviance; social control; inequalities; youth conflicts;


The proposed panel aims to critically investigate the relationship between youth cultures, the production of deviance, and the school (considered both as an institution and as a system of relationships: among students, between students and teachers, between students and school administration, between teachers and other educational agencies). The school assumes a role as a regulatory authority over students, both with respect to their behavior within the school’s spaces and times and in shaping their broader life trajectories. This role is exacerbated by austerity politics that constrain resources, and it has become deeply ingrained in organizational cultures and professional values (Mehan et al.,1986; Van Zanten,2012).

The social dimension of control permeates the entire educational trajectory, from the processes of selecting and differentiating educational pathways to everyday life in the classroom, to its culmination (whether it is a natural conclusion or dropouts) (Romito,2016). Critical studies on social justice within the field of education also reveal how these aspects intersect with inequalities, including cases of institutional racism, structural class disparities, and gender-based hierarchies within the educational system.

This control is a product of a combination of various knowledge sources and power dynamics. Alongside the “traditional” school conduct, educators, mediators, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers have become part of the equation, enriching the possible practices for managing deviance or school failure. This can also lead to increased labeling processes and to a subjectification of failure: for example, there is an increasing reliance of medical diagnoses (Conrad,2016; Conrad&Bergey,2014).

On the other hand, the symbolic economy of cultural practices informs the social attribution of value to ways of being and orders of experiences (Corrigan&Willis,1983). Even when not directly named, social representations of value-attributed behaviors are deeply influenced by class, gender, and racial structures (Skeggs, 2004; Gillborn, 2010). This results in the construction of subjects that are morally less worthy or regarded as “unteachable” (Skeggs,2005; Sthal,2017). Furthermore, public discourse about the school often focuses exclusively on the construction of school-related “folk devils”, which support and justify policies and practices of social control: bullying and cyberbullying, substance addictions, antisocial behaviors, episodes of violence (Cohen,1972).

The panel’s intention is to uncover the mechanisms and control tools applied to students who have a conflictual relationship with the school, to analyze the practices and conduct of the institution concerning popular cultures, social suffering, deviant practices, and undisciplined stances, and to delve into alternative practices and views.

The panel aims to stimulate a critical, multi- and inter-disciplinary debate on the construction of deviance within schools and is seeking research contributions that may specifically relate to the following lines of research:

  • Youth and popular subcultures and school conflicts

  • Subordinate masculinities and femininities in the school context

  • School everyday life and processes of racial and class inequalities

  • Practices, tools, and forms of governing youth conflict

  • School policies and deviance

  • Pathologization and medicalization of subaltern cultures and social suffering

  • Discourses on bullying and everyday school practices

Please note that these are only suggested research lines, and any contribution outside of these topics is also welcome.


Guidelines and abstracts submission