Mapping the field of "English Literature" in the school curriculum: Bourdieu's framework?

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


The subject of English Literature in the school curriculum during British colonialism in Hong Kong has been an under-investigated area despite its potential for debates on colonial education, linguistic hegemony, elitism and class divisions. During its five decades of implementation (1950s - 1997), the subject had remained to be an optional subject taken only by the minority of the student population. An examination of the curriculum over the years seems to suggest that the selection of texts has not changed much despite the post-war social and economic changes leading to mass education in the 1970s and 1980s. This presentation will attempt to argue that it is the literature assessment, with its accompanying structure of options and types of questions, which has helped the "English" literary canon to remain unchanged over the years. Question types in different periods will be analysed to show that the meaning of "literary language" has been dynamic and a contested terrain in different phases of social and economic changes in Hong Kong. The presentation will also share the extent to which Bourdieu's notions of "field" and cultural reproduction are applicable to the analysis of the cultural politics of the English Literature curriculum in Hong Kong. While some feel that Bourdieu's framework may be too deterministic to capture the dynamic changes in curriculum development brought about by different stakeholders, some think that Bourdieu's theories may explain the generative potential of a structured system, i.e., how different stakeholders react to changes through different strategies made possible by their positions within a system.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


Chu, W. K. (2014, November). Mapping the field of "English Literature" in the school curriculum: Bourdieu's framework?. Paper presented at The Joint Australian Association for Research in Education and New Zealand Association for Research in Education Conference (AARE-NZARE 2014 Conference), Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.


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