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Playing with inequality : an ethnographic study examining the ambiguities of young children’s death and violence play

Rosen, Rachel (2014) Playing with inequality : an ethnographic study examining the ambiguities of young children’s death and violence play. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Young children’s imaginative play about death and violence is contentious and under-theorised, often approached in normative terms where the play represents the source of or solution for wider ‘social problems’. In contrast, this study offers insights into the complex and shifting social ecology of death/violence play in one London-based nursery and clarifies the processes through which inequitable sociospatial relations are renewed, reworked, and even transformed in such activity. Utilising a critical ethnographic approach informed by critical realism and the social studies of childhood, the study engaged with children’s and adult educators’ perspectives and practices over a period of 1½ years through semi-participant observation, interviews, and multivocal video revisiting. The initial data chapters offer an analytic description of the setting, arguing that contradictory discursive, institutional, and material relations serve to render children’s death/violence play as ‘matter out of place’, paradoxically considered partially recuperable in relation to (boys’) development. The subsequent data chapters, informed by materialist feminist perspectives, point to the way imaginary characters became mobile resources for some children whilst inequalities serve to inscribe characters, including the monstrous, on others. The chapters point to the identifications players made with characters and narratives through a process of intense dialogic embodiment, in the process renewing sociospatial relations linked to normative heterosexuality, hegemonic masculinity, propertied relations, and flexible selves. This thesis, however, contends that ludic activity offers possibilities for overturning the status quo and enacting new social imaginaries. In the study setting, the death trope served as a generative metaphor to provoke caring touch, opening up social relations beyond economic calculation and gendered and generationed aspects of care. Play, it is argued, is a site of struggle, one that can offer a space of ethical-political engagement and radical potential, with implications for pedagogical projects concerned with equality and social transformation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Controlled Keywords: Qualitative research, ethnography, field work, interviews, observation, early childhood, inequality, imaginitive play, intersectionality, social studies of childhood
Subjects: Departments > Early Years and Primary Education
Depositing User: Mr Graeme Naylor
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2014 08:36
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2015 11:24
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