Working with (Post)theories to Explore Embodied and Unrecognized Emotional Labor in English Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)
Keywords:ECEC, Emotional labor, Poststructuralism, Posthuman affect, Relationality, Knowledge-production
Technocratic accountability, which is impacting ECEC practices in England, is where the government favors evidence-based knowledge to work with children. As a result, the emotional aspect of ECEC work and emotional labor have become increasingly complex and are sometimes unrecognized. In this paper we highlight the importance of more relational, connected, and embodied ways to work with young children. Analyzing qualitative semi-structured interview data from two projects, we focus on emotional labor using poststructuralist and posthuman affect theory. We use data from the first project to analyze narratives from ECEC practitioners, highlighting the relationship between government policies and dominant discourses. The second project notes entanglements with human and other-than-human bodies enacted with affect theory, which reveals embodied other-than-human productions of emotional labor generating alternative ways to explore ECEC work. By engaging with these two theoretical and conceptual positions, we offer a different perspective to consider ECEC professional knowledge(s) and reveal the ways these can shed an alternative light on professional practice. The resultant analysis allows us to reconsider knowledge-making practices in ECEC and challenge existing Cartesian dualistic thinking which separates “care” and “education.”
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