Subverting the hegemony of risk: vulnerability and transformation among Australian show children

Danaher, P. A. ORCID: and Danaher, Geoff and Moriarty, Beverley (2007) Subverting the hegemony of risk: vulnerability and transformation among Australian show children. Educational Research, 49 (3). pp. 211-224. ISSN 0013-1881

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Australian show people traverse extensive coastal and inland circuits in eastern and northern Australia, bringing the delights of 'sideshow alley' to annual agricultural shows. The show people's mobility for most of the school year makes it difficult for their school age children to attend 'regular' schools predicated on assumptions of fixed residence. This situation requires innovative approaches to educational provision if show children are not to be rendered vulnerable and at educational risk.
The research reported here investigated whether and how the establishment in 2000 of a specialised institution, the Queensland School for Travelling Show Children, was meeting the specialised educational and sociocultural contexts and needs of the show children three years after that establishment.
Participants in the study included the children, their parents and school and district educational personnel.
Design and methods
The research employed a qualitative design, highlighting naturalistic inquiry and attending to participants’ words as reflections of their worldviews. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in August 2003 in Brisbane and Southport (the capital city and a large coastal city in southeastern Queensland) with 35 people: 20 children in two groups; 6 parents; 7 staff members from the school; and 2 leaders of state education. Interview data were analysed by means of close textual reading of the transcripts and through identification of recurrent themes.
The results presented here are that the principal discourses of vulnerability associated with the show children derive from the anti-nomadic assumptions and attitudes that constitute sedentarism – the centuries-old process by which permanent residence is constructed as 'natural' and 'normal' and mobility is positioned as 'deficit' and 'deviant'. The study’s findings demonstrate that this process has become allied with a hegemony of risk rhetoric, whereby the uncontested dominance of taken for granted assumptions about the vulnerability of certain groups can potentially function to capture and control the show children’s 'difference'. By contrast, the Queensland School for Travelling Show Children emerges from the analysis of the interview data as a vehicle for subverting that hegemony through its construction of an alternative system of schooling in which the children’s mobility is 'the norm' and their 'difference' is the basis of creating new and transformative understandings of the purposes and forms of education.
The paper’s main conclusion is that identification of children who are 'at risk' or 'vulnerable' needs to be placed in the broader context of their sociocultural positioning. If this positioning constructs them as 'deficit' or 'deviant', as with the sedentarist view of the Australian show children, it must be critiqued and subverted if its practice of schooling is hegemonic rather than transformative.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Author's version deposited in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. (c) Taylor & Francis, 2007. This is the authors' version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Taylor & Francis for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Educational Research, Volume 49 Issue 3, 1 September 2007.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Education (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Education (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2008 06:37
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:49
Uncontrolled Keywords: Australia; risk; sedentarism; show children; vulnerability; transformation
Fields of Research (2008): 16 Studies in Human Society > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160506 Education Policy
16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160809 Sociology of Education
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3902 Education policy, sociology and philosophy > 390201 Education policy
39 EDUCATION > 3902 Education policy, sociology and philosophy > 390203 Sociology of education
39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390499 Specialist studies in education not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939903 Equity and Access to Education
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