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Putting Feminist New Materialism to work through affective methodologies in early childhood research

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In this paper I examine how we might move beyond a preoccupation with critique in educational research. I argue that moving away from critique opens up possibilities to reconfigure some entrenched ideas about childhood and early years education. This requires a deep engagement with the ordinary routines and mundane situations that unfold in nursery practice. I consider the ways in which discourses, curriculum frameworks, inspection regimes, research and pedagogical practices and routine happenings are entangled within everyday events in an early childhood centre. I focus upon the material-semiotic-discursive and affective entanglements observed during ethnographic research which takes materiality as its starting place. Attention to shaving foam snowmen, boggly eyes, human hair, mirrored walls and too-small furniture provides the means to account for associations and traceable attachments in which education can be understood as more than an exclusively human endeavour. I draw upon a small number of other-worldly examples to illustrate the means by which we can, playfully but seriously, break free from old orthodoxies and routine habits in early childhood. In doing so more generative possibilities are opened up to rethink thought about children, childhood, research and early years practice. This new materialist approach is informed by feminist scholars including Jane Bennet, Karen Barad, Donna Haraway and Rosi Braidotti and it calls for the world, and our human place in that world, to be considered afresh.

Dr Jayne Osgood is a Professor of Education (Early Years & Gender) based at the Centre for Education Research & Scholarship, Middlesex University. Her present methodologies and research practices are framed by feminist new materialism. Through her work she seeks to maintain a concern with issues of social justice and to critically engage with early childhood policy, curricular frameworks and pedagogical approaches. Through her work she seeks to extend understandings of the workforce, families, ‘the child’ and ‘childhood’ in early years contexts. She has published extensively within the postmodernist paradigm including Special Issues of the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood (2006, 2016 and 2017, forthcoming) and Narratives from the Nursery: negotiating professional identities in Early Childhood (Routledge, 2012); and currently Feminists Researching Childhood (Bloomsbury, forthcoming) and Post-developmental Approaches to Childhood Art (Bloomsbury, forthcoming). She has served on several editorial boards including Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Journal, British Education Research Journal, and is currently Co-Editor of Gender & Education Journal and Co-Editor of Reconceptualising Education Research Methodology.

This talk is part of the Arts and Creativities Research Group series.

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