Forced to teach: teachers negotiating their personal and professional identities when addressing forced marriage in the classroom

Khan, Tehmina (2019) Forced to teach: teachers negotiating their personal and professional identities when addressing forced marriage in the classroom. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


On 16th June 2014, legislation came into force in the UK criminalising the practice of forced marriage. This signified a growing concern regarding this practice involving British citizens. In its policy document for front-line services entitled 'Multi-agency Statutory Guidelines: Handling cases of forced marriage' (2009 & 2014), the government indicated that schools should play a role in the detection and prevention of forced marriage. This study investigates the perceptions and experiences of teachers based in a South London secondary school on addressing in the classroom the topic of FM. The study focuses on qualitative research involving a sample of eight semi-structured interviews with teachers, five semi-structured interviews with stakeholders, and six classroom observations. This study is conceptualised and theorised within a feminist post-structural framework. The study draws upon intersectionality to capture how teachers negotiate their professional and personal identities that they constructed as gendered, racial, religious and cultural subjectivities. A Foucauldian approach to thematic and identity analysis is employed to explore the perception of dominant discourses surrounding FM through its construction as a South Asian, Muslim problem. The key findings were threefold: firstly, teachers constructed FM as a racial and gendered issue; secondly, teachers constructed their identities as professional and personal, with the aim of becoming the 'good teacher' which they associated with professionalism; and thirdly, some teachers revealed that their personal and professional identities were challenged when implementing FM policy. This study unpacks how teachers resist and reproduce gendered and racial discourses to construct FM. These findings support the literature reviewed, in that teachers perform multiple identities which are shaped by three discourses; neutrality, professionalism and political correctness, which are underpinned by emotions. Some teachers suppressed their personal identities to allow their professional identities to prevail. All participants agreed that FM should appear on the national curriculum and, preferably, should be delivered by an external expert, such as the FMU. This study contributes to existing literature surrounding teachers’ identities and emotions. The study highlights how FM should be defined through policy as a human rights abuse and exposes inadequate FM training for qualified teachers.

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