Dissertation Abstracts

Becoming gendered bodies: A posthuman analysis of how gender is produced in an early childhood classroom

Author: Jennifer Lyttleton-Smith, smithjr1@cardiff.ac.uk
Department: School of Social Sciences
University: Cardiff University, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Emma Renold / Debbie Epstein
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Gender , Early Childhood , Posthumanism , Feminism
Areas of Research: Childhood , Theory , Education


In this thesis I explore how gender features in the experiences of nursery age children in South Wales, using a new feminist materialist theoretical framework to inform an analysis that moves away from the binary separation of the social and material spheres. Drawing on a year of ethnographic data produced through participant observation in a state school nursery located in a deprived suburban area, I examine small ‘moments of emergence’ where gender is produced within the spaces and relationships of the nursery. I take a posthumanist stance to these emergences, where I do not locate the children themselves as agential producers of gender, but instead trace how human and non-human bodies and discourses work through space and time to delineate subjects and objects in gendering ways. Through doing so I shift focus from a purely social understanding of how gender roles are transferred to young children and instead encourage a holistic view of how environments, matter, and temporality combine with discourse through multiple and complex pathways to create continuous and flexible (re)iterations of gender emergence. I argue that it is only when we appreciate the complexity of these emergences that we can seek to positively impact children’s gender experiences in effective ways.

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