Planetary Concerns as Interruptions to Aspiration-raising Policy Discourses: Exploring Potentialities for Alternative Modalities of Aspiration

Sharon Kishik*, Justine Grønbæk Pors

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


A rich literature has argued that so-called aspiration-raising policies tend to individualize structural conditions and thereby reproduce forms of inequality through young people’s aspirations. This paper explores how aspiration-raising policy discourses are lived in ways that both accentuate but that might also contest their terms. Drawing on Lauren Berlant, we theorize aspiration as ongoing performances that can be altered and remade in affective scenes of interruption. We put our theorization to work in a longitudinal study that followed a young woman, Marie, throughout her upper secondary education. Whilst Marie’s performances of aspiration predominantly chimed with such individualistic policy discourses, she would also describe moments where these performances were seemingly interrupted. These were moments where Marie vividly experienced concerns related to planetary crises. The analysis carefully unpacks these moments, and we argue that they bring Marie into contact with the political stakes in her life and lead her to search for alternative, more sustainable, and collective modalities of aspiration. Hence, supplementing previous studies that have shown how inequality is reproduced through aspirations, the paper contributes with new understandings of how alternative modalities of aspiration may emerge that potentially exceed structural limits.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 29 Nov 2023.


  • Attachment
  • Aspiration
  • Education policy
  • Glitch
  • Interruptions
  • Planetary concerns

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