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    Rhizomatic cartographies of belonging and identity within early years education

    Gabi, Josephine (2013) Rhizomatic cartographies of belonging and identity within early years education. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    Set in two primary schools in Manchester, England and drawing on personal reflections, my pursuit of what it means to belong within the early years takes me through a myriad of personal stories, inner struggles, crisis points and glimpses of hope. A significant feature running through this thesis is my own biography and my own rhizomatic journey where belonging and identity oscillate with the experience of the young participants. The main philosophical underpinning is Deleuze and Guattari’s work where specifically concepts such as majoritarian/minoritarian and the rhizome, which is symbolic of both theory and research that allows for multiplicities, interconnection and fluidity, have the effects of destabilising my common sense understanding of what it means to belong. This work takes a multidisciplinary qualitative positioning to make sense of, as well as critique taken-for-granted assumptions of both researching and conceptualising belonging and identity. Drawing from art, I utilise Hellman’s notion of pentimento to illustrate the fluidity and multilayeredness of human experience as well as the complex nature of ‘seeing’ where ‘each layer mixes with the other and renders irreversible influences on our perceptions of it’ (Donald, 2004:24). I may, therefore, never come to a conclusive understanding of the ‘pure’ ‘original’ beginnings of children’s sense of belonging and identity as there are as multiple explanations as there are ways of knowing, neither will I determine the end. In this regard, ‘tracing’ pure origins of children’s belonging and identity is a futile endeavour. Rather ‘mapping’ allows for connections that are not ‘readily perceptible to the normative subjects of dominant reality’ (Lorraine, 2003:269). The purpose is not to provide definitive answers or assertions, but rather to illuminate the materialisation of belonging and identity within the early years context. It utilises observations and discussions whilst capturing the complex ways in which bodies, both human and nonhuman connect. In a minimal way, it also makes use of pictorial data to enhance the description of the geographical contexts of the two schools. This study affirms that children’s sense of belonging and identity is dynamic, always in process and, therefore, constantly mutating. This has consequences for the ways in which we activate relations with children particularly in relation to language and special educational needs. Like a mirage, attempting to pin down what it means to belong and the determination of identity remains elusive. Therefore, we are left with moments-in-time of manifestations of belonging and identity in a spectrum of infinity where ‘tracing’ the beginning is as futile as reaching out to the end. Thus, this work questions what the repercussions are in terms of these fleeting glimpses of manifestations.

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