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Foucault and academic leadership in Taiwan: A BERA2103 blog post

Published in Foucault, Research Students by Yen-Hung Lin on May 29, 2013

Alma Mater statue, University of Illinois (c) Kevin Dooley

This is the second post linked to the event: BERA 2013 Conference: Social Theory and Education SIG papers – the paper is entitled:

BERA2013 paper: From Decontextualisation to Contextualisation – the Discursive Formation of ‘Technology Leadership’ in Taiwan’s Academic Field

Does the growing knowledge production derived from academic fields profoundly and intellectually outline the processes of interpenetration between subjects and objects in our living world? Or to put it differently, would that also represent another political space within a broader set of power-filled dynamics constituted by academics and certain regimes of practice? Having spent much of the past six years being a post-graduate student in Taiwan’s academic fields, I am constantly being perplexed by the above question while witnessing the ‘detachment’ between academic publications and schooling practice, and therefore becoming sceptical about the construction of knowledge.

Three major concerns moving among subject, object and knowledge direct my attention to how the knowledge in educational studies is being discursively, socially and collectively constructed in multiple fields, which are: 1) moral and political issues between researcher and researched, in which schooling practice might eventually become objects being enslaved and consumed by academia; 2) academics are being reformed as subjects in the regime of performativity; 3) the gap between the research participant’s daily practice and the researcher’s interpretive retelling of a textual work about practice. As situated in the growth industry of leadership by adjective, the linear development of knowledge production, consumption and dissemination demands concerns while a gap appears between discourse and practice, especially when the Eastern academics are embedded within the complexity between ‘global/local’ and ‘theory/practice’. For this, another post-structuralism perspective might be needed in order to make sense of this politics of language in knowledge production.

Bearing the ‘detachment’ between academic publications and schooling practice in mind, the main focus of this study is trying to understand how was such a decontextualised educational leadership theory being contextualised in Taiwan’s academic fields, if the linkage between textual practice in academia and practice in schools was not clearly visible? In order to unpack the process of recontextualisation, this study will take ‘technology leadership’ as an example, which was imported from United States and continually produced in Taiwan’s academic fields since 2006, and in particular analyse the discursive formation in dissertations from 2006 to 2012 by applying Foucault’s archaeological method. To state this in a less dramatic and more familiar way, I am attempting to explore the ways in which a language game is deployed and displaced, and certain rules determine how statements are emerged, circulated, repeated, transformed, preserved, and forgotten.

The purpose of this study does not lie in undermining the rationality and legitimacy of leadership theories. Rather, it is expected to identify/produce another post-structuralist approach to look at how the social reality is filtered as so-called knowledge – Yen-Hung Lin

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About the author /

I’m a first year PhD student studying at the Institute of Education, University of London, and my supervisor is Stephen Ball. A unifying objective that crosses all of my research has been to develop a broad but coherent set of ideas as regards the interplay between agency and structure, and discourse in/as practice. In addition, I am also interested in drawing upon diverse theoretical, conceptual and methodological insights deriving from social theories, in particular from Michael Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu. Currently, I am trying to look at the production of heterotopias within dynamics between formal and cram schooling in Taiwan. I can be contacted by email at or you can follow me on my website:

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