Distinguished spaces: elite schools as cartographers of privilege

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In this chapter Kenway and Prosser examine the social aesthetics of two elite schools in the Global South. Focusing on the role of space within the creation of social aesthetics, they draw on Lefebvre’s notion of the ‘spatial triad’, particularly ‘spatial practices’, to describe the historical and social processes taking place inside and outside the school gates. This relationship between the school and its wider social context is crucial since an elite space is defined by those places beyond it. In South Africa and Argentina, elite schools signal the flavor of their preferred clientele through their location in expensive, expansive, fastidiously groomed, quiet suburbs. These are well away from the cramped and noisy quarters of the poor where no space can be wasted and which are often home to the schools’ manual workers. Largely unnoticed, their long days are devoted to indulging the senses of rich: cooking, cleaning, primping the grounds. Such social divisions—spatial and otherwise—remain in spite of the democratic transformations and social upheavals that have altered these nations in the past few decades. As such, elite schools have had to shift their character and try to become open to Others. But this is easier said than done. Some new students enter the school from previously abject groups; others are merely allowed in as part of open days for family workers. Such noble gestures are welcomed but often accentuate an exclusive social aesthetics experience by a select few.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIn the Realm of the Senses
Subtitle of host publicationSocial Aesthetics and the Sensory Dynamics of Privilege
EditorsJohannah Fahey, Howard Prosser, Matthew Shaw
Place of PublicationSingapore Singapore
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9789812873491
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameCultural Studies and Transdisciplinarity in Education
ISSN (Print)2345-7708


  • Elite School
  • Liberal Democracy
  • Security Guard
  • Social Elite
  • Urban Space

Cite this

Kenway, J., & Prosser, H. (2015). Distinguished spaces: elite schools as cartographers of privilege. In J. Fahey, H. Prosser, & M. Shaw (Eds.), In the Realm of the Senses: Social Aesthetics and the Sensory Dynamics of Privilege (1st ed., pp. 31-55). (Cultural Studies and Transdisciplinarity in Education). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-350-7_3