Exploring agency in marginalised occupations: school administrative clerks’ deployment of ‘participatory capital’ in establishing practice-based agency
Keywords:School administrative clerks, Participatory capital, Agency
Popular conceptions of school administrative clerks and school secretaries imply that they have little agency because they are deemed as subordinate support staff. However, the literature across a range of fields suggests that these subordinates exercise agency. We set out in this article to explore the workings of subordinate agency. The article suggests that it is through their involvement and interaction in the socio-cultural context of the school that school administrative clerks, are able to expand the range of their agency and thereby reposition themselves at school. We employ the analytical construct ‘participatory capital’ to analyse how these clerks establish their agency and renegotiate their roles and places in the school. Based on a qualitative research study, we interviewed and observed three purposively selected administrative clerks in three primary schools in Cape Town. This article argues that, while the occupational identity of administrative clerks remains one of subordination within the bureaucratic discourse and their places of work, the selected school administrative clerks were able to extend the scope of their agency through their participatory capital.
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