Coherence, deference and difference: Primary school teacher identity in Tanzania


This paper applies Derrida’s concept of ‘différance’, as interpreted by Stuart Hall (2003), to the problem of theoretically representing the changing identity of a diverse teaching force. It is based on findings of an interpretative study into primary school teacher identity in Tanzania, in which qualitative data was collected through semistructured interviews and school case studies. The findings are presented as a typology of teacher identity types and discussed in relation to other studies of teacher identity, discourses or professionalism carried out in Sub Saharan Africa (Jessop & Penny, 1998; Welmond, 2002) and in Britain (Osborn, et al., 2000; Ball, 2003). In order to avoid ‘fixing’ artificial identities, attention is given to fluidity of boundaries between the ‘types’ of Tanzanian teacher identity and the perpetual re-creation of new identities. The concept of ‘différance’, with its dual meaning of difference and temporal deference, is applied to a description of how younger generations of teachers ‘defer to’ older identities, even as they adapt them in response to changing social and educational contexts. Policy implications are drawn for teacher management and education in Tanzania. Différance is also applied to conceptualising how international agendas, translated through policy, programmes or initiatives, effect change in teacher practice and professionalism.


Paper presented at the British Association for International and ComparativeEducation Conference, Queen’s University, Belfast, 8-10 September 2006. 16 pp.

Coherence, deference and difference: Primary school teacher identity in Tanzania

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