Kaissi, Omar (PhD alumnus)

As I examine the broad interrelations existing between educational research and educational policy-making, I am, rather pleasantly and to my great cheer, interrupted by a request to write a mini biography. It is pleasant because it allows me to extricate myself, even if very momentarily, from what I daily do, that is, intellectual submergence in research culture to excavate for what is generally, and sometimes fancifully, referred to as the “social scientific meaning.” Yes, this is what I have been, am and will always be up to: looking for meanings in how we (i.e. individuals and societies) navigate, negotiate and either affirm or disaffirm certain givens, certain cultural representations of social reality.

I am currently a doctoral (PhD) student at the Manchester Institute of Education (MIE), and my research interest lies in depicting, probing and trying to produce socially critical and context-specific/relevant responses to some of the most challenging, multifaceted problems confronting the leading of teaching and learning, curricular innovation and pedagogical engagement in today’s schools, be it on the local, regional or global level. These problems, I believe can be undertaken and, hopefully, resolved (or, at least, rearticulated in more conceptually clear and useful ways) through any of the various areas of concentration of the education field, including, but not limited to, teaching, subject leadership and school headship.

Recently, however, my interest has shifted to areas more in line with the topic and tentative plan for my doctoral thesis. The research work I have done on the master’s level back in year 2014 tackled issues related to the education of boys (or young men) in Western-style democracies. Particularly, it expanded on key theoretical and practical foundations and transformations in understanding how schooling and schools, as agents, are thoroughly embedded in processes of masculinity (re)construction through the male physical body. This general focus on how masculinity is constructed in educational locations (e.g. schools) will be furthered on the PhD level, where I intend to employ what transdisciplinary knowledge, intellectual skills and intercultural understanding I have so far gained to advance a sociologically-informed account of both the historical and contemporary (educational) knowledges informing inquiries into young male corporeality (i.e. their embodied existence/s) at the school.

Apart from research and research-making, I should like to note my literary inclinations. My Bachelor of Arts in English literature has given me an eye that is as powerful as the “sociological eye” in problematizing phenomena. I continue to pursue reading, whenever time permits, in both literature and literary theory. I have also produced a number of magazine and newspaper articles in Arabic. These, however, were non-educational in that they targeted issues pertaining more to local politics, citizenship and civil society activism in Lebanon, my home country.

Lebanon, in fact, will ever hold a dear place in my heart and mind. Whenever I jokingly call our capital, Beirut, which is as lively, expressive, profound and majestic as Manchester, my “life partner,” my mother smiles disapprovingly.