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Heterotopia and hauntings: troubling the spaces and artefacts of early years’ education and care in England

Shaw, Linda Jane (2017) Heterotopia and hauntings: troubling the spaces and artefacts of early years’ education and care in England. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

In 1966 Foucault broadcast a talk on French radio about ‘heterotopia’. These, he claimed, were institutional spaces which could be identified as being part of society but at the same time outside of contemporary social and political norms in their structure, discourses and iconography. A key feature of these ‘different spaces’ is that they are ‘haunted by fantasy’. This research takes the notion of early years’ education and care spaces as heterotopia but expands the notion of haunting to include the ghostly presence of pedagogical theories which co-exist within the articulations and enactments of early years’ practices in England. The intention is to engage with the complexity of regimes of educational and other truths to better understand and share alternative articulations and enactments. Gordon’s (2008) proposition that social haunting can be identified by seeking out the absences, silences and hidden discourses of social practices is employed to trouble early years’ education and care in terms of social justice as an important concept which is juxtaposed with other discourses which emphasise individual outcomes. Using participant observation within a broadly ethnomethodological approach the author records and analyses data collected in six early years’ education and care settings between 2011 and 2015. In place of scientific preoccupations with research purity (Barron et al., 2017) leading to a ‘best practice’ model of an education and care environment, the author deconstructs the possible meanings of her encounters with early years’ discourses and pedagogies. The data is analysed in relation to the indoor and outdoor spaces; the objects artefacts and materials awarded importance within settings and quality liaison reports designed to ‘improve practice’. The research revealed enduring tensions for practitioners and children in the dichotomous conceptualisations of indoor and outdoor play; caring and educating, child and pupil and the terms teacher and professional. The specialist language(s) of early years education and care were revealed to constrain as much as enable creative pedagogies. Poststructuralist feminism, including the notions of heterotopia and social haunting, proved a useful lens through which to re-evaluate ‘enabling environments’ provided for (and with) young children. The thesis concludes by considering the complex relationship between theory, research and practice in order to present new possibilities for enacting and articulating early years pedagogy.

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