Troubling Authority and Material Bodies

Creating Sympoietic Pedagogies for Working with Children and Practitioners


  • Karin Murris University of Oulu (Finland)/University of Cape Town (South Africa)
  • Joanna Haynes University of Plymouth Institute of Education (UK)


Authority, Democracy, Diffraction, Negotiation, Sympoiesis, Posthumanism


Discourses and relations of child/adult and early education are super-permeated with ideas and practices of authority and boundary-making. In early years’ practices, deeply important beliefs and assumptions about who or what has authority and who or what should create the boundaries of everyday activity often go unquestioned. This produces different kinds of epistemic injustice in respect of children and those who work with them, as well as through the materialities of early childhood and training settings, including higher education. These systems of authority both express and produce wider patterns of living associated with the wider society, including democracies.

Posthumanism inspires questions about not only ways of knowing, but also about the privileging of dis/embodied knowing over feeling, intuiting, sensing, making, and moving. This paper thinks from the diffractive position that knowing is a direct material and moving engagement to explore possibilities for sympoietic pedagogies of enquiry-making-with (Haraway, 2016), and examines how these generate new ideas about early childhood practices and what professional knowledge might become. We illustrate this diffractive curriculum and pedagogy through an example from teacher education in South Africa to make important connections between authority, pedagogy, and an enlarged framework for democratic education; in this work, we explore sympoietic approaches to negotiation.

Author Biographies

Karin Murris, University of Oulu (Finland)/University of Cape Town (South Africa)

Karin Murris is professor of early childhood education at the University of Oulu (Finland) and emerita professor of pedagogy and philosophy, University of Cape Town (South Africa). She is a teacher educator and grounded in academic philosophy and a postqualitative research paradigm, her main interests are in childhood studies and democratic postdevelopmental pedagogies. She was principal investigator of a Learning through Digital Play project in South Africa. Her books include: The Posthuman Child (2016), and (with Joanna Haynes) Literacies, Literature and Learning: Reading Classrooms Differently (2018), Picturebooks, Pedagogy and Philosophy (2012). She is co-editor of the Routledge International Handbook of Philosophy for Children (2017) and chief editor of a new Routledge series on Postqualitative, New Materialist and Critical Posthumanist Research.

Joanna Haynes, University of Plymouth Institute of Education (UK)

Joanna Haynes is associate professor in education studies at Plymouth University Institute of Education (UK). Joanna has worked as an educator in formal and informal contexts with children, young people and adults. Her research interests include democratic, intra-generational and community education. She is author of Children as Philosophers (2002; 2008), which has been translated into Spanish, Greek and Korean, and (with Karin Murris) Picturebooks, Pedagogy and Philosophy (2012) and Literacies, Literature and Learning: Reading Classrooms Differently (2018). She is co-editor (with M.R. Gregory and K. Murris) of The Routledge International Handbook of Philosophy for Children (2017).