Being, becoming and potential: thinking coexistence and coproduction in early childhood education
AuthorMentha, Suzan Ann
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2016 Dr. Suzan Ann Mentha
This thesis explores how disparate ideas of being, becoming and agency can be reframed to decolonise early childhood education and care contexts. It asks questions of multiple childhood perspectives to denaturalise accepted and dominating early childhood discourses. It does so by pursuing a variegated understanding nested within three questions. First, what ideas of childhood and development compel and inspire the framing of educational objectives in current policy contexts of Australian early childhood reform? Second, what can contemporary challenges to the nature of subjectivity offer for rethinking assumptions of being, agency and development in early childhood? The third asks, what non-dominating perspectives reframe ideas of becoming and potential within the context of early childhood education and care? In addressing these questions, the thesis draws on humanist, post-humanist and postcolonial theory, Indigenous and early childhood policy to examine intersections of childhood and being as colonised subject. Theoretically this thesis grounds itself in critical ontology, emerging through a range of theories on concepts of governmentality, power relations, self and subjectivity. Foundations of critical ontology are challenged by ideas of colonised-coloniser relationships, processes of subjectification and their relationship to the child. This positions the study's contribution to emerging postcolonial reframing of early childhood education. Methodologically, the thesis utilises an approach drawing from interpretive, deconstructive and critical methodologies of education. It draws on critical discourse analysis of philosophy, reform policy, and narratives of experience, overarched by a relatedness ethic, in which a space is held open to contradictions and disparity in theory and thinkers. The study comprises five streams of knowledge about the child. The first explores the idea of childhood as a European foundation of early education discourse. The second explores contemporary critical challenges to the nature of being and the subject. The third stream explores the shaping of docile bodies as refracted through Australian early childhood policy frameworks, and the fourth takes this further to present a genealogy of discourses intersecting child, potential, and education. The fifth stream explores Indigenous Australian perspectives and postcolonial challenges that highlight the ongoing processes constructing the colonial subject. The thesis contributes to understanding how early childhood education might enable difference as multiple manifestations of being. It suggests the ongoing colonial processes of control over childhood calls for the paradigm shift needed. It produces three main theoretical contributions. First, it produces a conceptual possibility of early education and care as a platform for coexistence. Second, it offers concrete and symbolic beginnings for decolonial coproduction. Third, in order to break with childhood as colonised subject, and children as deficit beings, the thesis develops an understanding of emergent being-becomings and becoming-relations, highlighting potentiality as existing in confluence with being. Overall, these can offer directions for unearthing colonial foundations of childhood in reviewing policy and rethinking directions for early childhood education and care.
Keywordsbecoming and being in early childhood; decolonial methodology; agency; potential; Indigenous education; early childhood education
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format" and choose "open with... Endnote".
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format". Login to Refworks, go to References => Import References