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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access June 1, 2021

Pandemic Education: Dissensus, Achievement, Enclosure

Matthew Chrisler

Abstract

Alongside a crisis of public health, COVID-19 has also engendered a crisis of social reproduction in the domain of public education. Drawing on conversations and collaborations with K-12 education advocates in the Phoenix metropolitan area, this essay deploys an activist methodology to identify political struggles and turn the ethnographic lens onto the publics and political economies that shape them. After situating contemporary Phoenix schooling in the regional history of the southwest-turned-sunbelt, I examine emerging features of pandemic education in 2020: managed dissensus, caretaking achievement, and education technology enclosures. I retool the concept of “managed dissensus” to argue that, in polarizing debates about the pandemic, conservative politics shifted from consent to coercion in order to maintain priorities of privatizing education and “reopening” the economy. Further, as districts pursued virtual schooling, I show how an institutional project of caretaking achievement produced new patterns of alienation, disengagement, and punishment among teachers and students. Third, I consider how technology created unequal enclosures of parents and students in new gendered, racialized, and ableist regimes of education. As the pandemic continues into 2021, anthropologists should continue to examine public education and social reproduction as sites where state power, racism, and colonialism are expressed and transformed.

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Received: 2020-07-30
Accepted: 2021-04-29
Published Online: 2021-06-01

© 2021 Matthew Chrisler, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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