Playing with Difference: The Cultural Politics of Childhood Belonging

By Affrica Taylor.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Drawing upon ethnographic observational data from a longitudinal study in a culturally diverse Australian early childhood centre, this paper provides a micro-analysis of a young Indian-Australian boy's identity play over a two year period. It focuses upon the ways in which this boy strategically and incrementally navigated a complex set of non-hegemonic ethnic and gender identity positions, in order to gradually gain peer acceptance and belonging within the centre. The identity positions that he performed were increasingly risky and transformative and involved multiple identity border crossings. He played these differences deliberately and skillfully. This study illustrates that young children are far from innocent about gender and ethnic/racialised power relations and can be cognizant players within the political field of identity, difference and belonging. It also serves to demonstrate the ways in which identity is intersubjective rather than autonomous and as least as much a performance for others than it is for ourselves (Butler 2004). Furthermore, through overtly playing with difference, the child in this study highlights the pedagogical possibilities of blurring the boundaries between self and other and embracing a relational ethics of difference.

Keywords: Differnece, Identity, Belonging, Early Childhood, Pedagogy

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.143-150. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 520.746KB).

Dr. Affrica Taylor

Senior Lecturer, School of Education and Community Studies, Division of Communication and Education, University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Dr Affrica Taylor is a senior lecturer at University of Canberra, Australia. She lectures in Socio-Cultural Politics of Education on the Canberra campus and in Educational Futures in an offshore Masters in Educational Leadership program in Hangzhou, China. With a longstanding and activist-based interest in the politics of identity and difference in the postcolonial Australian context, she has researched and published in the fields of queer and postcolonial studies and cultural geography. Her most recent research is focused around transnational relations and childhood studies. Although based upon ethnographic research, her contributions to early childhood studies are resolutely interdisciplinary. She applies queer, intercultural and spatial analytics to the cultural politics of childhood belongings that she observes in her field work. Most recently, Affrica has been exploring the pedagogical possibilities of Levinas' work on relational ethics in her thinking about children's identity play.

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