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Finding a voice: A figured worlds approach to theorising young children's identities

Barron, Ian (2013) Finding a voice: A figured worlds approach to theorising young children's identities. ISSN 1476-718X

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Abstract

This article explores some of the ways in which children’s ethnic identities have been conceptualised by sociocultural and critical race theory and the potential of the ‘figured worlds’ literature in helping to theorise the responses of young children to the cultural and educational worlds they encounter. Using some vignettes drawn from the author’s ethnographic study of the ethnic identities of a group of 3- and 4-year-old White British and British Pakistani children in a kindergarten in the north of England, the article explores the potential of a figured worlds analysis in understanding how the children respond to some of the experiences of the kindergarten and in understanding how they seek to make sense of their identities. The article concludes that while structural and cultural factors shaped the ways in which the children engaged or did not engage in the social and educational practices of the kindergarten and played a very significant part in how they viewed themselves and viewed others, the children were not silent observers of what the world offered or did not offer them. A dialogic self was evident that authored and tried to make sense of the world, but, in so doing, designated identities meant that only particular figured worlds were available to children for much of the time. It is argued that what a figured worlds reading offers is a means of seeking to uncover and theorise the complex ways in which young children experience and perform their identities and respond to the social and educational practices in particular contexts. This is seen as having value in providing a framework for early childhood academics and educators to work together to support children in exploring alternative figured identities that challenge, alleviate and transform the constraints that positional identities often seem to impose on them.

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