Norwegian version

Public defense: Elise Margrethe Vike Johannessen

Elise Margrethe Vike Johannessen will defend her thesis: “Ambivalence, complexity, power relations. Students’ narratives about prejudice in school.” for the degree of PhD in Educational Sciences for Teacher Education.

Trial Lecture

The trial lecture starts at 10:00. Please do not enter the room after the lecture has begun.

Title: "Skolen som kontekst for å undersøke makt og fordommer".

Public defense

The candidate will defend her thesis at 12:00. Please do not enter the room after the defense has begun.

Title of the thesis: “Ambivalence, complexity, power relations. Students’ narratives about prejudice in school”.

Ordinary opponents

Leader of the public defense

Hilde Arntsen, Head of Department, Department of International Studies and Interpreting, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University


How to oppose ex auditorio

Please inform the leader of the defense if you wish to oppose ex auditorio during the break, before the second opponent begins.

For questions regarding the trial lecture and public defense, contact the PhD administration at the faculty.

Publication of the approved PhD thesis

Request a copy (PDF) of the PhD thesis by e-mail. Include the name of the PhD candidate.

  • Summary

    In this thesis I present and discuss students’ narratives about prejudice in school. Schools are, by law and through educational policy, responsible for working against and preventing prejudice. This is a challenging and complex task. Research from the school context has found that teachers find it challenging to identify, interpret and handle situations where they believe students express or make use of prejudice(s) and negative stereotypes. Research has also shown that students experience various forms of exclusion based on their presumed minority belonging, both through interactions with students and teachers, as well as encounters with teaching materials or instructional content. There is not, however, much research focusing on what students understand as prejudice(s), and in what ways students experience prejudice and negative stereotypes in school. Nor how student composition may play into and shape students’ understandings of prejudice(s). Increased knowledge about prejudice from a student perspective can be an important contribution to schools’ work with preventing prejudice and social exclusion.

    The thesis springs out from a desire to gain insight into students’ experiences with and understandings of prejudice, to contribute with knowledge that can provide a broader basis for expanding teachers’ competence in terms of prejudice prevention in school. Additionally, it provides new perspectives in terms of understanding and interpreting students’ experiences with and understandings of prejudice in school. I have conducted observations in three high schools and interviewed 28 students about their experiences with and understandings of prejudice in school. The students’ narratives show that term «prejudice» itself, does not necessarily appear as relevant for the students. They mainly talked about social practices and specific teaching situations and topics which they, in different ways and to various degrees, associated with the term prejudice. The students’ associations refer to both social dynamics and social categories, such as gender, religion, and skin color, where power relations, social relations, privilege, and exposedness, are in motion in various ways, and affect how students understand different situations and practices.

    In the thesis, I draw on theoretical perspectives on prejudice and stereotypes, social psychological perspectives on groups and social identity, as well as perspectives on power relations and intersectionality. This framework provides a basis from which to unpack complex narratives about prejudice in school and opens for exploration and discussion of how power relations and relational aspects are manifested or expressed, and how they can be seen in connection with students’ narratives about, and associations to, prejudice.

    The thesis comprises three scientific articles. In the first article, I investigate boys’ use of disparaging humor and slurs among friends. They describe their use of humor as a central part of being mates, and as a way of signaling camaraderie and relational closeness. The boys do not consider their use of humor as prejudicial, however, they express that the humor they use is rarely well thought through and that they cannot be completely sure of how it feels being on the receiving end of such humor. Central to the article’s discussions are humor and its positive functions both in groups and for individuals, one the one hand, and ambivalence and ambiguity tied to disparaging humor, on the other. 
    In the second article, I discuss girls with Muslim backgrounds and their experiences with and understandings of learning about Islam in school. The article shows, like previous research, that Islam as a teaching topic can be experienced as especially challenging for Muslim students. My findings, however, indicate that religion and ethics class stand out as a space where religious boundaries can become more salient because of the topic itself, as well as the students’ reactions and responses in class. 

    In the third article, Røthing and I discuss students’ narratives about diversity of opinion and discomfort in the classroom. We investigate how students’ experiences of discomfort in specific situations can be understood, considering student positions, context, and certain topics as especially «sticky» and challenging. Our analyses indicate that discomfort can stick to certain topics in ways that prevent critical reflection and learning through diverging opinions and disagreement, and that class dynamics and student composition can have great impact on how and/or whether diverse opinions are expressed. The students’ narratives reflect various burdens for students with Muslim backgrounds, and complex responses marked by emotions such as discomfort, fear, insecurity, and irritation, from the majority students.

    Empirically the thesis contributes with new knowledge by providing deeper insight into how students understand and experience prejudice in school. By questioning and shedding light on nuances in students’ narratives, the thesis contributes to a complex understanding of prejudice in school from a student perspective. Theoretically the thesis contributes with conceptualizations of students’ perceptions of and experiences with prejudice. Additionally, it contributes theoretically by combining theories that together opens for investigation and analysis of both individual, relational, structural, and contextual aspects of prejudice in school.