Working with (Post)theories to Explore Embodied and Unrecognized Emotional Labor in English Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)



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.”

Author Biographies

Eva Mikuska, University of Chichester (UK)

Éva Mikuska is a senior lecturer in the Department of Education, Health and Social Science at the University of Chichester, UK. Her work seeks to broaden current views on early childhood education and care in England with the aims to produce a more generative, ethical, and political way to enact ECEC research. Her language skills (native Hungarian, and Serbo-Croat) and her research enables her work to have synergy with a national and international set of ECEC researchers.

Nikki Fairchild, Portsmouth University (UK)

Nikki Fairchild is a senior lecturer in early childhood at Portsmouth University, UK. Her research and publications have two foci: enacting posthumanist and new material feminist theory to extend existing theorizations of professionalism, professional identity, and more-than-human subjectivities in early childhood; and researching with a group of inter-disciplinary scholars to explore post-qualitative research-creation and what this might mean for knowledge production.