The spatial practices of school administrative clerks: making space for contributive justice
This article discusses the work practices of the much neglected phenomenon of the work of school administrative clerks in schools. Popular accounts of school administrative clerks portray them as subjectified – assigned roles with limited power and discretion – as subordinate and expected to be compliant, passive and deferent to the principal and senior teachers. Despite the vital role they play in schools, their neglect is characterised by their invisible, largely taken-for-granted roles in a school’s everyday functioning. This main aim of this article is to make their everyday practices and contributions visible, to elevate them as indispensable, albeit discounted, role players in their schools, whose particular expressions of agency contribute qualitatively to a school’s practices. Using the theoretical lens of ‘space’, and based on in-depth semi-structured interviews in the qualitative research tradition, the article discusses how selected school administrative clerks’ production of space exceeds their assigned spatial limitations, i.e. they move beyond the expectations that their work contexts narrowly assign to them. They resist the contributive injustice visited upon them and through their agency they engage in spatial practices that counters this injustice. They carve out a productive niche for themselves at their schools through their daily practice. This niche, I will argue, embodies practices of ‘care’, ‘sway’ and ‘surrogacy,’ understood through a vigorous ‘production of space’. Through these unique spatial practices they reflect their agency and their appropriation of existing spatial practices at their schools. Thus, they produce personalized meanings for their existing practice as well as generate novel lived spatial practices.
Key words: School administrative clerks, space, spatial practices, lived space, contributive justice