“I’m being a man here”: Urban boys’ performances of masculinity and engagement with science during a science museum visit

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It is widely recognised that there is a need to increase and widen participation and engagement in post-compulsory science and informal science learning spaces, such as science museums. Urban young people from working-class and minority ethnic backgrounds are a key target group in this respect. While there is a growing understanding of the intersection of femininity with class, ethnicity and science learning across formal and informal settings, there has been very little work on how masculinity may play a role in urban boys’ science (non)participation and (dis)engagement. This paper analyses the performances of masculinity enacted by 36 urban, working-class boys (from diverse ethnic backgrounds) from two schools during school science museum visits and explores how these performances relate to science identity and engagement. We identify three main performances of masculinity that were enacted by boys on the visits (‘laddishness’, ‘muscular intellect’ and ‘translocational masculinity’), and trace the differing implications of each for boys’ science engagement. We consider the power implications of these performances, notably the extent to which hegemonic masculinity is normalised within the science museum space, the ways in which this normalisation is co-constitutive of the boys’ performances of masculinity and the implications of the boys’ performances of masculinity for other students (notably girls and less dominant boys). The paper concludes with implications for research, policy and practice regarding how to promote equitable participation and science learning within informal science learning contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-485
Issue number3
Early online date15 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2016


  • Gender, masculinity, science learning, museums, capital, Bourdieu, identity


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