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Gaztambide-Fernandez, R. A. (2009) The Best of the Best: Becoming Elite at an American Boarding School, London: Harvard University Press.

Ruben Gaztambide-Fernandez conducts a year-long ethnographic study of students at an elite American boarding school in order to gather information about the social processes involved in learning to be elite. He creates a vivid portrait of the school environment with its social hierarchies and rituals, all of which shape the identities of a diverse group of ‘deeply ambitious’ and ‘intensely pressured’ students. The author participates in all aspects of campus life and observes and records the students as they experience a rich variety of academic classes and activities, eventually earning their place at the top of society by ‘being smart and working hard’. He explores issues of class, race, sexism and diversity with a keen eye for detail and illuminates clearly both the official and unofficial rules that define the school and the social practices that shape privilege.

Khan, R. S. (2011) Privilege: The making of an adolescent elite at St. Paul's School, Woodstock: Princeton University Press.


Sociologist Khan presents a portrait of a group of advantaged youths at an elite boarding school in America. Surprisingly, the students of St Paul's School come from many culturally diverse backgrounds and are not all born into rich families, yet the author describes the multi-layered processes by which these students become socialised into a value system which allows them to take their place at the top of the social hierarchy. A collective belief in individualism and meritocratic ideals means that success for these young people is not a result of who they are but of what they do, and the myriad academic and social experiences offered to them by their elite school guarantee that these students are at ease in just about any social situation. Rahman Khan investigates the interactions between teachers and students, men and women, and students of differing backgrounds as he illuminates the processes by which students learn to work hard, be smart and 'perform privilege'. 

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