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Tactful hands and vibrant mattering in the sand tray

MacRae, Christina (2020) Tactful hands and vibrant mattering in the sand tray. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. p. 146879842090185. ISSN 1468-7984

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Abstract

This paper reflects on a slow-motion video clip of the hands of three young children as they play with toys in the sand tray. It foregrounds sand and toys that are handled, as well as hands that grasp and relinquish things. Through this movement of hands that tug and pull at things, it explores how things animate bodies, and how this produces the felt-sense of other desiring bodies. As hands tender things, they are animated by what they touch, and simultaneously things are animated through the give and take of pulls and pushes of desire expressed as kinetic force. The slowed film of hands in motion draws our attention from words, towards a (re)cognition of a sensed intelligence which is not pre-language, but is produced before language, as well as with language. Arguing that child development theories are inextricably bound up in narratives of human exceptionalism founded in language and moralism, I will make the case for reinstating sense as a mode of attention in order to counter a lack that is perceived until children learn language. By troubling the boundaries that we draw between the animal and the human, there is much to learn from very young children when we seriously attend to their capacity for sensory ways of knowing that are so often eclipsed by the dominance of language.

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