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Unreasonable rage, disobedient dissent: the social construction of student activists and the limits of student engagement

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This article explores the limits of student engagement in higher education in the United Kingdom through the social construction of student activists within media discourses. It scrutinises the impact of dominant neoliberal discourses on the notion of student engage- ment, constructing certain students as legitimately engaged whilst infantilising and criminalising those who participate in protest. Exploring media coverage of and commentary on students engaged in activism, from the 2010 protests against university fee increases and from more recent activism in 2016, the article draws upon Sara Ahmed’s (2014) Willful Subjects and Imogen Tyler’s (2013) Revolting Subjects to examine critically the ways in which some powerful dis- courses control and limit which activities, practices and voices can be recognised as legitimate forms of student engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-108
JournalLearning and Teaching
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2018


  • Unreasonable rage, disobedient dissent

    Rights statement: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedited version of an article published in Learning and Teaching. The definitive publisher-authenticated version: Jessica Gagnon (2018). 'Unreasonable rage, disobedient dissent: The social construction of student activists and the limits of student engagement'. Learning and Teaching, 11(1), pp. 82-108, is available online at:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 290 KB, PDF document

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