International Journal of Art & Design Education

Identity Politics and the Queering of Art Education: Inclusion and the Confessional Route to Salvation

Volume 26.1   2007



In this article I discuss the relationship between theories of identity and making practices in secondary art and design. Of particular interest is the way students are invited to explore identities in relation to a sense of self and the extent to which this is informed by schools' concern to make diversity visible through multicultural celebration, thus framing and possibly limiting exploration. It is notable that non-heternormative sexual identities remain largely invisible in the official curriculum and I examine the disjunction between this absence and their hypervisibilty in the mass media and its culture of confession/exposure. I revisit Michel Foucault's discussion of the history of sexuality as a way to understand the development of confessional discourses in modern culture and to provide an alternative and ambivalent reading of the power relations implicit in work exploring identities by art and design students. Specifically, I look at the position of gay and lesbian students and teachers, and ask whether their sexuality can figure within the injunction 'explore your identity'. Given the heteronormative culture of schooling, I end by recommending that individuals should be wary of outing themselves in the name of self-expression but that art teachers could use strategies of distancing to engage students with issues of sexuality and join with others to counter homophobia by queering the curriculum.