E-portfolios in early childhood education : the work of freedom in (un)silencing the disciplining of bodies. (2022)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis explores power/knowledge and truth in early childhood education, (un)silencing the disciplining of bodies in the e-portfolio space. Conceptualised as a political site, this space holds children’s and teachers’ bodies within complex networks of power. Examining these networks reveals a contemporary “Panopticon”—a “marvellous machine” (Foucault, 2008, p. 7) of power for disciplining subjects into docile bodies. The potential to be disciplined in educational settings produces tension, because notions of disciplining do not sit comfortably within countries that have adopted neoliberal ideologies.
This qualitative research was conducted in two kindergartens in Aotearoa New Zealand with twenty-nine children aged between three and a half years to six years and their teachers. Interview data and video recordings were analysed using a Foucaultian theoretical framework. The thesis argues the disciplining of bodies in the e-portfolio space occurs through neoliberal ideology and dominant discourses of individualism, freedom, choice and agency. Normalisation processes operate to produce the ‘good docile teacher body’ and the ‘good docile child body’ while simultaneously subjugating alternate ways of being.
A third body offers hope and freedom against subjugation. Drawing on Foucault’s concepts of freedom and pleasure, children demonstrate how they “counterattack” (Foucault, 1980, p. 56) normalisation processes. On these occasions children portray themselves as powerful and agentic bodies, taking pleasure in evading and thwarting adults’ power and in subjugating other children. In acknowledging Foucaultian notions of pleasure as the “work of freedom” (Foucault, 1984b, p. 46), the nexus to children’s resistance can be celebrated. Little is known about this area of inquiry. Therefore, this thesis contributes to new modalities of freedom by challenging what we currently have and currently are—to experiment with the undefined “possibilities” (Foucault, 1982, p. 788) of what we might hope to be.
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