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Affective school atmospheres: an adventure through lively matters

Sackville-Ford, Mark (2017) Affective school atmospheres: an adventure through lively matters. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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In this thesis I explore the ways that atmospheres may be conceptualized and how these function affectively within school contexts. Incorporating broadly new materialisms methodologies, drawing heavily on the work of Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari, I attempt to create an assemblage of a becoming-thesis. I consider potential atmospheres as ‘hauntings’, ‘ethereal hazes’ and ‘vibrant ecstacies’ which shimmer with their own agency. These are vibrant matters where I utilise the work of Stewart, Bennett and Braidotti, amongst others, to create a flatter ontology and consider all matter within this ‘unholy mixture’, including the nonhuman. Driven by the research film that I produced alongside children, I explore the entanglements within the school environment and wonder how school may be experienced by young people. This is fuelled by a dissatisfaction with the current school agendas and the impact this has on children, and a strong moral need to care about education and childhood. Through engaging with teachers and school staff I begin the process of questioning the ordinary everyday practices, materiality and discourses that pervade schools and education. The thesis also seeks to become atmospheric whilst resisting traditional representational models of educational research. Instead I seek an enchanting adventure through discursive and varied styles of writing. By incorporating multiple texts and writing in non-linear ways, I seek to engage with complex flows, intensities and potentialities as these constantly shift and flux. As such the reader is encouraged to negotiate an unholy mixture of traditional academic writing alongside photographs, poetry, film, personal reflective writing, and narrative story writing. These aim to act as jolts or onto-epistemological shudders hoping to mirror my own discomfort as I negotiated a doctorate in education. Both the thesis and the research aspire to be event-ful. I end in a place better able to understand the complexities that exist around ‘affective school atmospheres’ and see that the approaches of new materialisms are a fitting way to research the indeterminable. I also begin to consider how the next steps for this research involve a political turn to generate action and revolt, to consider how we might open the void to create space to change schools.

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