AFLYST: The co-construction of gender & science in a science museum

Indsigt-seminar by Emily Dawson, University College London

The concept of ‘identity’ has become an important tool for research in science education, as it has across social research more broadly (Lemke, 2001). In this presentation I use Butlers (2006) concept of identity performance to explore how students engaged with science in three visits to a science museum. I argue that the co-construction of masculinity and science in the museum left girls, as well as boys who were not ‘laddish’, in a difficult position in terms of how to perform the identities they were invested in while engaging with science. For example, across all three visits girls worked hard to balance their investment in performances of being ‘pretty, popular’ with being in a science museum. This analysis poses a dilemma for science educators invested in developing socially just, equitable science learning experiences. Leveraging students’ identities and resources can be used to support science/museum engagement among traditionally excluded social groups, such as working-class, urban boys. However, the intersection of multiple axes of inequality means that these attempts may not always result in science learning, and may even, on occasion, play an unwitting part in the reproduction of particular axes of inequality (e.g. gender inequality).