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Critical realism, agency and sickle cell: case studies of young people with sickle cell disorder at school

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Publication details

DateE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jul 2013
DatePublished (current) - 2014
Issue number13
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)2379-2398
Early online date26/07/13
Original languageEnglish


Critical realism suggests that historical structures may operate as underlying generative mechanisms but not always be activated. This explains the near-absence of references to racism by black students with sickle cell disorder (SCD). Through case studies we show how latent mechanisms are not activated, and how social actors come to develop corporate agency. Themes discussed include: wider/historical racisms (carers' own experiences of overt racism at school); conscious actions (moving away from a school where racism was experienced); awareness of anticipatory retaliation (multiculturalism as a form of societal inoculation against accusations of racism); naming racism as an emergent strategy (when communal discussions enable multiple negative experiences to be framed and named as racism); and ‘passing’ (not ostensibly experiencing racism if one is sufficiently light-skinned). Critical realism suggests how racism may be structuring the experiences of students with SCD at school even in the absence of specific accounts by young people.

    Research areas

  • Sickle cell, Racism, Agency, Critical realism, Case study, Schools

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