Suhraiya Jivraj – Faith School Values: Interrogating Religion and Citizenship in British Education Policy

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Event Date: 7 February
Christodoulou Meeting Room 11
Walton Hall campus
Open University,
Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA

Opening the Boundaries of Citizenship

The conference addresses the performative and creative side of social movements, practices of identity negotiation and political participation questioning the meaning of citizenship. Which actors, sites and rights are constituted in contemporary power struggles redefining ‘the political’? Which neo-colonial or neo-imperial nodes emerge from the analysis of issues such as democracy or secularism? Under this light, how is the language of law challenged and remoulded?

Panel 18: Religion and the Political

Dr Suhraiya Jivraj (Oxford Brookes University) – Faith School Values: Interrogating Religion and Citizenship in British Education Policy

The former New Labour Government facilitated the expansion of faith schools in England despite strong criticisms in the wake of 9/11 and the 2001 ‘race-riots’ in the North of England. Their support was based on the seeming academic success of faith schools and their role in promoting citizenship and community cohesion; both of which were (and continue to be under the current government) attributed to the religious values and ethos of these schools.

In this paper I sidestep the debate on whether faith schools should be state funded or not or whether they contribute to divisiveness within society. Rather, I examine the socio-political work of ‘religion’ in New Labour’s citizenship and communities (including social cohesion) agendas as well as its continuation under the current conservative government. Through an exploration of social capital and communitarian theory I argue that the New Labour reification of faith schools’ ethos and values is viewed as engendering civil-ising values, norms and community (religious networks), understood as vital for nurturing children to be responsible and productive citizens. Drawing on the intersections of critical race/religion, citizenship and feminist theory, I explore the implications of this faith based, yet also universalising values discourse, in the regulation of non-Christian communities and subjects.

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