Accepted Paper:

Studying through  
Susan Wright (Ã…rhus University)

Paper short abstract:

In contrast to traditions of studying down and Nader's studying up, Reinhold's 'studying through' involves following the flow of events that move between various local and national arenas and interconnect different debates and conflicts in the formation of a new policy.

Paper long abstract:

<b>Co-author: Susan Reinhold</b></br>

Increasingly, work in the anthropology of policy draws on the analytical concept of 'studying through'. In contrast to anthropology's tradition of studying down and Nader's studying up, 'studying through' involves following the flow of events that move between various local and national arenas and interconnect different debates and conflicts in the formation of a new policy.

This paper draws on the original source of this analytical concept, Reinhold's historical anthropology of the passage of 'Section 28', legislation from the Thatcher period in Britain which made it unlawful for local authorities to use public resources to support lesbians and gay people. The study follows events, from the early attempts of teachers in Haringey, London, to promote a positive image of gay families, through the debates and conflicts that went back and forth between different groups of local people, the local authority, the local and national media and Parliament. Through following this flow of events it is possible to track how key words gradually changed meaning. One important keyword is 'promotion'. If the conflicts started over promoting positive images of gay families, the legislation ends up outlawing the promotion of homosexual 'pretend families'. In the process of shifting the meanings of such key words, the Thatcher government asserted, and made authoritative, a narrow definition of 'the family' as heterosexual and nuclear. This study shows the formation of one crucial element of the then-emerging, and later hegemonic, Thatcherite discourse, on which major reforms of governance in 1980s and 1990s Britain were based.

Panel W009
Policy worlds