June 14, 2022
Congratulations to Dr. Harper Keenan, who has been awarded a 2022 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. The fellowship grants support early career scholars to make significant scholarly and research contributions to the field of education. The program also develops the careers of its recipients through professional development activities involving National Academy of Education members.
Dr. Keenan’s fellowship is in support of his project titled Unmanageable Subjects: Trans Childhood and the Challenge of Self-Determination at School. This research project examines the challenges facing trans youth and, in particular, the persistent role of schooling in regulating gender, and in managing childhood more broadly. Gender self-determination has been the unifying demand of transgender social movements in the United States since they began to coalesce more than 50 years ago. Dr. Keenan argues that trans people are positioned as unmanageable subjects within the context of K-12 schools. This phrase has an intentional double meaning, referencing 1) the treatment of transgender existence as a taboo topic, and 2) the challenges trans children pose to the administrative and social regulation of gender. How might educators embrace unmanageability? What might it look like to practice education that resists rigidly scripting the world, including who children can be and become within it? Drawing on two years of multi-site qualitative data from five elementary school classrooms and one after school program in a large urban school district in Northern California, this study examines the struggle for gender self-determination in primary education through more than 50 interviews and 5 focus groups with teachers, 20 play-based focus groups with children, and over 500 hours of participant observation.
Dr. Keenan is the Robert Quartermain Professor of Gender and Sexuality Research in Education, a Distinguished University Scholar in Education and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education. Learn more about his work.