Date of Award

Winter 2017

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Paula M Salvio

Second Advisor

Winston Thompson

Third Advisor

John Hornstein


This dissertation explores the contemporary educational construct known as Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL. It investigates how the child, the teacher and the relationship between children and teachers are figured in the SEL-managed classroom. The dissertation also examines the extent to which SEL is produced by, and productive of, culture, as well as what becomes of negative and unruly affect in the context of SEL. The dissertation triangulates data from Critical Discourse Analysis of selected SEL materials, classroom observations in two different public school elementary school classrooms, and interviews with participating teachers. A combination of Kleinian psychoanalysis and affect theory are drawn on as a theoretical frame. The dissertation argues that SEL figures the child as someone feral and in need of external control, which can be provided by the teacher as knowing subject and emotional expert. Further, analysis shows that SEL contributes to and is influenced by an ongoing cultural disavowal of race, class, sex, and the body in the childhood classroom. Finally, the dissertation argues that SEL contributes to a phenomenon called hegemonic positivity, refusing to take seriously the lessons and possibilities constituted within negative affect and conflict.