Biopedagogical Assemblages: Exploring School Drug Education in Action

Public health “perspectives” position school-based drug education as a key site whereby public health imperatives can be brought to life through the “empowerment” of young people to take charge of their bodies to ensure their own good health.
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  Cultural Studies ↔  Critical Methodologies 1  –9© 2015 SAGE PublicationsReprints and permissions: 10.1177/  Article Introduction Hiding an open can of dog food behind their back, the teachers call the students into the center of the room around a single table with a plate in the middle. Ensuring they have the attention of the students, they upend the can of dog food on the  plate, while asking, “Now, would you eat that? Then why would you use illicit drugs?” (A teaching strategy suggested by a health promotion academic invited to a conference to speak about professional development in health education, in conversation with the first author) Young people’s drug use has long been a site of intense social and governmental concern. Seen as more prone to experimentation and risk taking than adults, yet less capable of rational and informed decisions, young people are posi-tioned as being extremely vulnerable to the dangers (and  pleasures) posed by psychoactive drugs. It is a vulnerability all the more likely to incite concern given the contaminat-ing, criminalizing, and addicting role that tends to be pro- jected onto drugs in most societies today, and the passive innocence and idealized, predrug state of being that tend to  be projected onto young people. Young people are therefore a key target of most governmental drug prevention efforts which, through a range of mechanisms—including legisla-tion and law enforcement, advertising and marketing restrictions, broad public health campaigns, and school- based educational measures—aim to reduce the demand for  psychoactive drugs in society.While drug education has always been about regulating young people’s drug-related conduct, how it has gone about doing this work has varied across time and place. The “  Just  say no! ” approach, popularized by Nancy Reagan in 1982, focused on providing young people with information about the dangers of drugs and teaching assertiveness strategies for resisting peer pressure. This abstinence-based approach 611721 CSC XXX10.1177/1532708615611721Cultural Studies<span class="symbol"cstyle="symbol">↔</span> Critical Methodologies Leahy and Malins research-article 2015 1 Monash University, Melbourne, Australia 2 RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia Corresponding Author: Deana Leahy, Faculty of Education, Monash University, Berwick campus, VIC 3805, Australia. Email: Biopedagogical Assemblages: Exploring School Drug Education in Action Deana Leahy 1  and Peta Malins 2 Abstract Public health “perspectives” position school-based drug education as a key site whereby public health imperatives can be brought to life through the “empowerment” of young people to take charge of their bodies to ensure their own good health. Foucauldian governmentality scholarship has been extremely useful in the task of critically examining these attempts to govern the population’s health and drug use, drawing attention to the ways in which classrooms function as biopedagogical spaces where particular sorts of knowledge and truth are mobilized to produce subjects who are rational, autonomous, and “empowered” to make the “right” healthy, drug-free choices. Although the work of Foucault has helped in drawing attention to expert knowledges, discourses, and truths that operate in the production of “healthy” subjectivity, it has been less useful for exploring the affective, desiring, and embodied aspects of school drug education or for examining its potential side effects, including its impacts on bodily capacities, social relations, and empathy. In this article, then, we draw on the work of Deleuze and Guattari to build on and supplement these governmental approaches: to consider what actually happens, affectively, in classrooms when drug education biopedagogies are put into motion, and what implications this has for embodied relations beyond the classroom. We argue that by attending to the affective, desiring, and embodied aspects of school drug education, we get a more nuanced sense of the broader impacts of school drug education: how it functions as a biopolitical site and how it might affect upon health and well-being in ways not considered by discourses of public health nor those of governmentality. Keywords biopedagogy, governmentality, assemblage, drug education, prevention, harm reduction, affect  at RMIT UNIVERSITY on November 2, 2015csc.sagepub.comDownloaded from   2 Cultural Studies ↔  Critical Methodologies has had far-reaching consequences for drug education across the Western world, and its influence endures today (Leahy, 2012). Most contemporary drug prevention inter-ventions are, for example, still underpinned by similar questionable assumptions regarding the role of peer pres-sure, the efficacy of shock tactics, and the avoidance of any mention of pleasure in the context of drugs.In Australia, however, as with many other countries, harm minimization approaches have also increasingly come to influence school drug education interventions (Farrugia, 2012; Midford, McBride, & Munro, 1998), with most rec-ognizing—in an official sense at least—the importance of not only teaching young people how to avoid drugs and alcohol, but also providing them with opportunities to develop the knowledges and skills needed to reduce the harms associated with their use. Thus, we have witnessed the emergence of a range of new educational strategies that are specifically directed toward enabling young people to manage drug risks.Contemporary school-based harm reduction drug educa-tion, then, can be thought of, in Foucauldian (1984) terms, as a multitude of governmental sites that seek to shape the health conduct of the population in relation to drugs by enabling young people to take charge of their bodies so as to ensure their own and others’ good health. In working toward such ends, the drug education classroom can be understood to be a “biopolitical” site saturated with “biopedagogical” strategies that attempt to influence drug-related bodily practices by producing particular sorts of health-seeking subjects shaped by particular values, norms, and knowledges regarding drugs and drug users.In this article, we are interested in examining these “biopedagogical” spaces and strategies of drug education as they function as governmental apparatuses of public health. Our analysis builds on “Foucauldian” governmentality studies that draw attention to the ways in which drug educa-tion is imagined in public health and health promotion pol-icy and program frameworks (Lupton, 1995; Peterson, 1997; Turner, 1997). We also build on a wealth of insights  provided by scholars who have utilized the associated con-ceptual frame of biopolitics and biopedagogies to interro-gate the politics of health (see, for example, Gastaldo, 1997; Rail, 2012; Rail, Murray, & Holmes, 2010; Wright & Halse, 2014; Wright & Harwood, 2009).The focus of much of this scholarship, however, has been on what McKee (2009) refers to as “discursive governmen-tality” in the form of genealogies and/or textual analyses of  programs, websites, and resources (Burrows & Wright, 2007; Wright & Halse, 2014). While this body of critical research has been incredibly generative, it reveals little, if anything, about how governmental imperatives of health and drug education are enacted at what Foucault (2003) refers to as the point of application. It also reveals little in relation to the spatial, embodied, and affective  aspects of governmental apparatuses. Thus, we actually possess a very limited understanding of what McKee (2009) has termed “practical governmentality.” While governmentality studies and biopolitics have much to offer a pedagogical analysis,  biopedagogical moments are necessarily made up of much more than just expert discourses and techniques (Leahy, 2009, 2012). As Albrecht-Crane and Slack (2007) note, the social space of the classroom is a rich and complex arena in which much more happens than is generally acknowledged. What happens in the classroom, its “thisness,” often exceeds what is perceived as the “task at hand” and engulfs teachers and students in spaces of “affect” in ways that matter in the  politics of everyday life. (p. 99) The anecdote involving dog food with which we opened the article raises for us an interesting problem in relation to governmental analyses of drug and health education in  practice. How can we, within a discursive governmental frame, possibly begin to make sense of the potential rela-tions that might be forged between drug use and dog food? How might we begin to connect the governmental rationali-ties of drug education policy and discourse to a corporeal, visceral, visually, and olfactorily disturbing encounter with dog food in a classroom? Through what frame might it be  possible to think critically about this biopedagogical moment while accounting in some way for the embodied affects—of desire, surprise, disgust, abjection, and shame— that seem so central to it?While this particular example is perhaps at the more extreme end of drug educational logical absurdity, it has a certain resonance with the visceral shock tactics relied on in the majority of government drug prevention campaigns; campaigns which, in Australia as elsewhere, tend to draw on extreme representations of disease, disfigurement, death, and disgust in an attempt to scare young people off using drugs. There appears to be much more at work in such strat-egies than the production of knowledge and the calling into  being of rational, empowered, neoliberal subjects. Such strategies, like the dog-food idea, seem to push us to the limits of governmental and discursive analyses, and neces-sitate a closer look at the affective  forces at work in the  biopedagogical moment of drug education itself.Until recently, affect has been hidden from view in gov-ernmentality analyses due to the over-reliance on discursive analyses and discourse as means to interrogate governmen-tal hopes and practices. More recently, though, scholars have endeavored to unite governmentality studies and affect in an attempt to better understand its workings (see Bjerg & Staunaes, 2011; Burrows & Wright, 2007; Fullagar, 2009; Leahy, 2009, 2012; Rich, 2011). We believe that by attend-ing to the affective, desiring, and embodied aspects of school drug education, we will get a better sense of how  it functions as a site of both biopolitics and biopedagogy, and at RMIT UNIVERSITY on November 2, 2015csc.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Leahy and Malins 3 how it might affect upon health and broad social well-being in ways not yet considered by discourses of public health nor those of governmentality.The intention of this article, then, is to look more closely at school drug education in practice and to offer suggestions as to how we might develop a more nuanced understanding of the embodied and affective workings of governmentality and its biopedagogies. Drawing on empirical drug educa-tion classroom observations from a secondary school in Melbourne, Australia, our intention is to advance the criti-cal interrogation of the biopedagogies of public health by exploring how concepts drawn from the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (Deleuze & Guattari, 1983, 1987) might help us to understand how health education classrooms function as affective biopedagogic assemblages  (see Leahy, 2009). After first outlining the conceptual frame that underpins our analysis and explaining the observational research methods used in the research, we then offer three detailed classroom vignettes to consider what happens when we attend closely to drug education in action. We sug-gest that while each vignette can be understood as an exam- ple of a biopedagogical assemblage, in that there is a deliberate attempt being made in each to normalize, regu-late, and shape the drug-related conduct of young people, there is much more that goes on in the “hurly burly of the classroom” (Probyn, 2004) than that which can be captured within a traditional biopedagogical frame. Drawing on a range of concepts taken from the work of Deleuze and Guattari, we explore here what might be offered by attend-ing to the affective, desiring, and embodied aspects of the  pedagogical assemblage. Finally, we conclude by mapping out some potential directions for creatively rethinking school-based drug education and for imagining the opera-tions of biopedagogies in practice more broadly. Biopedagogic Assemblages The concept of biopedagogical assemblages  (Leahy, 2012) is central to our analyses in this article, as it permits an understanding of pedagogy that captures the multiple and complex discourses, techniques, and affects that are at play within contemporary classrooms. The notion of biopedago-gies draws on Foucault’s (1978) concept of “biopower,” a term that refers to the governance and regulation of indi-viduals and populations through the production of particu-lar knowledges and subjectivities associated with practices of the body. Biopedagogy, then, refers to the specific pedagogi-cal practices through which biopower is enacted. It can include  practices of informal education (e.g., media and Internet) as well as formal education (e.g., school), which, through the dissemination of particular knowledges and values regarding the body, work to shape and construct understandings of the  body and the virtuous biocitizen (Halse, 2009). As a range of scholars have noted, processes of governmentality such as these are complex, involving multiple and diverse tech-niques, institutions, and apparatuses (see, for example, Dean, 1999; Rose, 2000). They cannot, for example,  be understood as expressions of a particular principle, as reducible to a particular set of relations, or as referring to a single set of problems or functions. They do not form those types of totalities in which parts are expressions of the whole. Rather they should be approached as composed of heterogeneous elements having diverse historical trajectories, as polymorphous in their internal and external relations, and as  bearing upon a multiple and wide range of problems and issues. (Dean, 1999, p. 29) Following these leads, we suggest that it is useful to under-stand biopedagogies as complex processes incorporating heterogeneous discourses, histories, problems, methodolo-gies, and modes of expression, or what we term “biopeda-gogical assemblages.”But what does it mean to think about biopedagogies as assemblages ? In its most basic sense, it means taking into account the myriad forces, subjects, and “things” that make up the pedagogical exchange and thinking critically about how they interact. A biopedagogical classroom assemblage, for example, necessarily involves a collection of govern-mental forces, including expert knowledges, discourses, educational policies and curriculum guidelines, school- based policies and protocols, as well broader legal and pol-icy frameworks. It also involves subjects (students and teachers), their bodies (as corporeal, sensory organisms), material objects (perhaps a room, chairs, tables, black- boards, notebooks and pens, and a range of other teaching  props and resources), and intensities (temperatures, lights, sounds, memories, moods), all of which—when arranged in some sort of connection to one another, as well as to the aforementioned governmental forces—produce particular effects.We cannot, therefore, think about the biopedagogical assemblage without immediately accepting that there is more at play in the pedagogical moment than governmental intentions, discursive “truths,” and other biopolitical forces. The locally specific, embodied, spatial, and intensive qual-ity of the pedagogic assemblage makes it possible to begin to imagine how the “thisness” of each classroom must nec-essarily and inevitably exceed any curriculum framework, governmental intention, or designated “task at hand.”If we want to start to understand, though, how the assem- blage might actually be working in and through bodies— how it is that the various components and forces that make up the assemblage actually interact—it is necessary to go deeper and map out an ontological frame that might under- pin the concept of assemblage. Here, we suggest that the ontological frame articulated by Deleuze and Guattari (1983, 1987)—a frame increasingly being taken up by a wide range of scholars in health and health promotion (Fox, at RMIT UNIVERSITY on November 2, 2015csc.sagepub.comDownloaded from   4 Cultural Studies ↔  Critical Methodologies 2002), education (Albrecht-Crane & Slack, 2007; Hickey-Moody, 2009, 2013), and drug studies (Blackman, 2004; Duff, 2007; Farrugia, 2012; Fitzgerald, 1998, 2010; Fitzgerald & Threadgold 2004; Fraser, 2006; Malins, 2004)—provides an extremely useful way of thinking through the operations of the biopedagogical assemblage.To understand the assemblage from a Deleuzo– Guattarian perspective, it is first necessary to shift the focus of attention away from the subject and the production of subjectivity, toward the body  and what it is that a body can do (bodily capacity). Moreover, it is necessary to imagine that bodies (human and otherwise) found within an assem- blage are not in any way autonomous, stable, bounded enti-ties or beings , but are rather always already in processes of becoming   that take place in connection to and in conjunc-tion with, other bodies. The assemblage therefore no longer involves separate bodies interacting  , but bodies whose very movement of becoming takes place in and through the bod-ies around it: a process which Fraser (2006, drawing on the work of Barad, 2003) suggests is better thought of as intra -action. Thus, in a pedagogical context, student bodies can no longer be understood as simply being acted upon by the teacher, by discourse, or by governmental rationalities: rather, they always already exists in and through these forces, and their processes of transformation necessarily shape the transformation of the discourses, knowledges, and other bodies to which they connect.Also critical to understanding the Deleuzo–Guattarian assemblage is the concept of desire , which here is best understood not as an individual yearning for the fulfillment of a lack or the attainment of pleasure, but as the primary force or energy that moves between bodies, enabling con-nections and becomings. In every society, desire comes to  be machined or invested in various ways that necessarily organize, rein in, and limit its vital, revolutionary potential. The machining of desire is that which makes society, sub- jectivity, and social relations possible. Assemblages are then really another word for desiring-machines : arrange-ments of bodies, affects, and intensive forces involved in the machining of desire. And the ways in which they machine desire impact upon what it is that a body can do .To qualitatively distinguish between machinic invest-ments of desire, Deleuze and Guattari present us with two extreme types or tendencies, which they term  paranoia  and  schizophrenia . Paranoiac investments are those that tend to limit and organize the flows, taking pleasure in categoriz-ing, striating, and limiting bodies, reducing their capacity for affecting and being affected. Those that we might call schizoid are those that liberate desire, embracing its chaotic transformative potentials, enhancing its capacity to disturb established social and bodily orders. Each has its own ben-efits and dangers. The limit point of schizoid desiring is what Deleuze and Guattari call the  Body Without Organs  (  BwO ), which designates an absolute or threshold in the disarticulation or dissolution of the organ -ized body (human, governmental, social, or otherwise) as we know it.It is useful here to return for a moment to the dog-food assemblage outlined earlier, to consider how paranoiac and schizoid investments of desire might be operating at the level of pedagogy. On one hand, we might certainly read the teacher’s attempt to put children off drug use as a paranoiac attempt to stratify desire. Yet the encounter with a pile of dog food and the line of questioning that follows seems ulti-mately more schizoid than paranoiac: It necessarily forces an engagement with bodily potential and with what it is that a body can do. It seems to be opening up flows, rather than closing them down. While it is undoubtedly designed to engender a certain paranoiac relation to drugs, in nonethe-less interpellates students into relations of becoming (becoming-dog, becoming-drugged) that render perceptible the fluidity of the body and its capacity for alternative modes of being. Relations of becoming and affect that must surely both excite and disturb. How can we make sense of governmental attempts to limit desire, when faced with such ambiguous and seemingly contradictory affects?Albrecht-Crane and Slack’s (2007) suggestion that both molar   and molecular   lines of pedagogic affect are at play in classrooms is useful here. Molar lines are those that invest desire in rigid, linear, and paranoid ways, producing and reinforcing macro structures of identity and social organiza-tion, such as those of class, gender, sexuality, and race. It is through molar lines that we enact the binary categories of man/woman, human/animal, adult/child, teacher/student, which produce the stigmatized, marginalized identities of “drug user,” “criminal,” and “addict.” Molar lines are pro-duced via paranoiac investments and are powerful; they can  be difficult to shift or escape. Yet they rely on a whole net-work of localized, micro molecular   lines to sustain them. These molecular lines can be understood as the small, every-day productions of affect   that are necessary for the distribu-tion and reinforcement of this grand molar segmentarity.With these ideas in mind, we will now look to some real-life examples of school-based drug education to how a  biopedagogical assemblage frame might help us to under-stand the ways in which governmentality operates in and through classroom bodies. The three vignettes that follow are drawn from empirical data collected in 2001 from a year-long ethnographic study undertaken by the first author in a large metropolitan secondary school in Victoria, Australia. The school had what it considered to be a vibrant and comprehensive health education program that required students to study a compulsory semester-long unit at each level, from Years 7 to 10. The study was conducted using a range of research methods including observations of health education lessons, interviews with teachers and profes-sional development personnel, together with analysis of health education curriculum documents, teaching resources, and professional learning programs.  at RMIT UNIVERSITY on November 2, 2015csc.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Leahy and Malins 5 Assemblages in Motion In the school health education program, drug education was interspersed differently throughout each of the year levels. In Years 7 and 8, for example, the focus tended to be on smoking and alcohol. In Years 9 and 10, the focus changed to include alcohol and sexual risk taking and illicit drug use. This is interesting in and of itself, as the demarcation around what is acceptable and appropriate was determined by a combination of curriculum guidelines and teacher assump-tions about their students and school need. The three vignettes selected for analysis and discussion occurred in two different classes with two different teachers. Vignettes 1 and 2 are drawn from the same class group. Vignette 3 takes place in a different class group. Interviews with the class teachers revealed that they very much subscribed to the notion that health education (and thus drug education) was important because of the myriad of risks that young  people face in contemporary times. Health education, then, according to the teachers in the study, offered an invaluable opportunity for students to learn about the risks, which would enable them to make informed decisions about vari-ous risks to avoid them. The beliefs held by the teachers about the purposes of health education capture the “govern-mentalities” that underpin and infuse school-based health education. Effectively, such mentalities provide what Ellsworth (2005) refers to as the pedagogical force of, in this case, health education. However, from the rich ethno-graphic material collected, the overall impression was that there was a lot more going on in the classrooms than was apparent from the curriculum frameworks, and that the actuality of drug education delivery was often very different from the apparent governmental intentions of policy, cur-riculum, and teachers (Leahy, 2012). Vignette 1—What Do We Know About Drugs?  This is the first class of a new integrated unit called “Being fit for life,” which is designed to combine health education with  physical education. It is an all-girls class and, alongside fitness testing and training, there is to be an educative focus on illicit drugs and nutrition. Good nutrition and physical activity are to  be explicitly linked to the idea of being fit for life, and the implicit guiding message regarding illicit drugs is that their use is incompatible with both fitness and life. This first class is an introductory lesson that has already covered nutrition and is now moving on to look at illicit drugs.The students are all seated, mostly in twos, at tables arranged in rows facing the front, with some tables at the side facing inwards. The teacher stands at the front of the class, whiteboard marker poised as she introduces the new topic: “So girls, what do we know about illicit drugs? We are focusing on illicit drugs over the next few weeks, so what do you know?” As she is talking/waiting for a response, she writes down DRUGS in the middle of the board. No one replies; some are looking away or down, avoiding her gaze.After a short pause, the teacher offers the following story: “So you know about the pop star, the singer, who used a lot of cocaine, and it ate through her nose, and so she now has a hole in her face where her nose was? It was all over the magazines.” Some students are nodding, others seem to be not so sure. She continues, “It is pretty risky, isn’t it? So what do you know about drugs?”Students start to respond, calling out, “You get addicted,” “You can die,” “It is stupid,” “You get sick.” As students are calling out, the teacher adds their responses to the board. She then asks another question: “What drugs do we know about? I have already said cocaine.” She writes “cocaine” on the board, then turns back to the class. “What else is there?” No one responds, so she adds “Come on?” and some of the students start calling out answers: “heroin,” “ecstasy,” “speed.” She nods approvingly, says “good,” and lists each answer on the board. As she is writing, she asks the students to “get this down.”They all begin to open their books, find pens, and start writing. The teacher asks, “Well, what else? Surely there is more than this? There is. What other illicit drugs?” Another student says “marijuana.” Most aren’t saying much at all, including many of the students who had frequently contributed to discussions around nutrition earlier. The list on the board now comprises several illicit drugs and a collection of negative effects. The teacher stands back to appraise the lists and then turns around to check if the students have written everything down, walking up to a couple of students and checking their work. This class seems to begin with molarity: A teacher stands at the front with a whiteboard, students sit behind tables, fac-ing forward and up, watching, listening, their minds active  but their bodies relatively inert. The teacher writes up a noun on the board—a molar category in safe molar capital-ization: “DRUGS.” Disembodied, separated from flows of illicit desire. A category of fact, ready to be ascribed schol-arly meaning. Yet something goes wrong or at least some-thing already starts to unravel the molarity of the space even at this point. Perhaps it is that the word “drugs” can-not so easily be separated from its schizoid potential, no matter how disembodied its rendering. Or perhaps it is that the teacher by asking not just “What do we know?” (in a formal classroom-knowledge sense) but also “ . . . What do you know?” has forced the students to engage with their own relationship to drugs, an engagement with memory that necessarily invokes a certain molecularity or singular-ity of affect. A rupture occurs in the safe orderly space of the classroom, leaving students in a precarious position: How can they channel the molecularity of their affect into correct, safe, molar responses? A rich silence ensues.The teacher then tries to catalyze a response by evoking visceral components of a story about a pop star, a drug, and a disintegrating nose. As a molecular strategy, this is a story designed to agitate students, to enter the body, and activate flows of desire. It is also invoked to generate fear in relation to the body and what a body on drugs can do. The face without at RMIT UNIVERSITY on November 2, 2015csc.sagepub.comDownloaded from 

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