Assembling and Dissembling: Policy as Productive Play

Jill P. Koyama, Hervé Varenne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


In this piece, the authors examine educational policy by focusing on the ways in which actors "play" or selectively follow, negotiate, and appropriate cultural instructions and rules. They outline a framework that situates assemblage, a notion utilized in actor-network theory, within the critical cultural study of policy. Treating policy assemblage as a dynamic cultural form, they argue, provides a way of revealing the complexities of sociomaterial connections inherent to policy implementation. The authors pay particular attention to what happens when disparate actors join together to perform policy-directed tasks. It is within these heterogeneous and hybrid linkages that policy negotiations and controversies can become productive play. The authors briefly discuss the dynamic composition of productive policy play. Then, applying it to a controversy revealed in the ethnographic analysis of No Child Left Behind conducted by the first author, they demonstrate the framework's usefulness in considering the sociocultural processes of policy in action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-162
Number of pages6
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • anthropology
  • cultural analysis
  • educational policy
  • ethnography
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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