Policy Archaeology: Method and Utility? by Jason Huxtable

A cover slide with black background and text that says POlicy Archaeology: Method and Utility?

It was very interesting to speak with the ‘Belonging through assessment: Pipelines of compassion’ project group about a research methodology I’ve used for an upcoming book chapter (Huxtable 2022), ‘Performance’ measures as neoliberal industrialisation of higher education: A policy archaeology of the Teaching Excellent Framework and implications for the marginalisation of music education, chapter in ‘The Industrialisation of Arts Education’ edited by Samantha Broadhead, in press publishing August 2022; Palgrave Macmillan)

‘Policy Archaeology’ is a method introduced by James Scheurich (1994) to interrogate the social conditions for the emergence and visibility of policy problems and the range of acceptable policy solutions. Through the passing through of four ‘arenas’, policy analysts are required to critically question how policy is reflective, and reinforcing, of a grid of social regularities and to what extent policy seeks to confirm or subvert dominant discourse, action and behaviour. Most importantly policy archaeologists are required to problem pose why and what power (re)distribution is preferable through policy enaction and what this says about society and it’s ‘regularities’ (and regulation).

I suggest that a policy archaeology relating to processes and policy outcomes relating to ‘compassionate assessment’ investigation may prompt reflective critical questioning:

  • What is the problem the policy is trying to address?
  • Who is this a problem for?
  • Who are the stakeholders in this policy solution?
  • Why has the need for a solution emerged now?
  • What are the possible solutions?
  • What does this tell us about the social regularities the ‘problem’ exists within? What solutions may have been deemed unacceptable and why?
  • How does this policy problem and solution correspond to the grid of social regularities?
  • What are the forms of capital at play here and what is the intended re-distribution of power? Are there any unintended (or intended) harms which may result? Who is ‘paying’ and why?
  • To what extent does the policy solution seek to reinforce, fix, modify, subvert, challenge or disrupt social ‘norms’? What is the potential for change and what are the limitations?

Slides for my opening presentation can be accessed at this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JwrAHZTYlkMfdum6U0kox_2jEocDi6Vm/view?usp=sharing

Jason Huxtable, Senior Lecturer in Popular Music Performance, Leeds Arts University



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