Theorizing School Bullying
Insights from Japan
This paper identifies a lacuna in the existing paradigms of bullying: a gap caused by the frame of reference being largely limited to the highly industrialized societies of the ‘west’: Europe, North America and Oceania. The paper attempts to address this gap by presenting research developed in Japan. In Japan, sociological discourse on school bullying, i.e. the analysis of institutional factors relevant to understanding bullying was established relatively early, as was the epistemology now referred to as the second paradigm of bullying. The paper attempts to integrate the research strengths of Japan with this new trend in bullying research, with the view of incorporating ‘non-western’ research traditions into mainstream discourse on bullying. It introduces a typology of school bullying: Types I&II, and discusses 1) hierarchical relationships in schools, focusing on corporal punishment and teacher-student bullying, and 2) group dynamics surrounding bullying. The paper illustrates how bullying among students is entwined with various aspects of schools as social institutions. It argues that school bullying may represent a state of anomie in both formal and informal power structures in schools, which have become dysfunctional communities unable to deal with bullying, while at the same time it can be students’ way of compensating their sense of alienation and disconnectedness from school.
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