Läsande flickor Läspolitik och det genomlysta subjektet
The dissertation explores the multiple shapes of ‘the reading girl’ and how this subject is constructed in reading surveys and assessments during the 1900s and early 2000s. The analysis focuses on mapping the subject's historical constitution by defining specific historical events that have been important in shaping the reading girl as a subject. The study further investigates the shape, boundaries and conditions of the dispositif that produces the subject, and how girls and women relate to and negotiate the boundaries of said dispositif.
The analysis shows the versions and variations of the reading girl as a subject at different times as well as how the subject become intelligible trough scientific discourses with different interests over the century. Three historical events are identified as important in the shaping of the girl reader: i) The entry and success of a discourse concerned with (healthy) development: the entry of a development-driven logic and the subsequent measurements of children’s and young people’s reading in accordance with this logic, where ideas with moral implications affect the perceptions of girls’ reading interests; ii) the entry and success of a discourse concerned with (good) habits: the entry of a definition of healthy reading habits in terms of quantity and the perception of reading as something natural and necessary; and iii) the entry and success of a discourse concerned with cognitive development: the unification of the two above-mentioned discourses (development and habits) within a cognitive and neuroscientific framework, including a scientific objectification of the concept reading literacy.
The analysis further shows how the girl reader subject is formed based on the disciplinary and regulating practices of the reading surveys and how these surveys demonstrate understandings of ideal citizenship. The dispositif that is outlined in the dissertation points to a tendency in reading discourses to quantify and measure reading rather than to focus its qualitative aspects. This type of measuring of reading is motivated by the various scientific practices that have guided knowledge production on young people's reading interests, habits and abilities over the course of the studied period. The last chapter of the dissertation explores girls’ and women’s written stories about their reading experiences, attained from the archive at Nordiska museet (The Swedish museum of cultural history). This final empirical analysis shows the normative dimensions of the dispositif, but also how reading girls are, through the practice of reading, able to hide from the demands of transparency stipulated by surveys and examinations.
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