Original Resarch Paper
Miller, M.G. (2016). Whiteness scholarship in early childhood education. NZ Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, Special Issue: Equality and Diversity, 19, 61 - 77.
Whiteness scholarship in early childhood education
Melinda G Miller
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane
This paper explores how whiteness scholarship can support deep engagement with both historical and contemporary forms of whiteness and racism in early childhood education. To this point, the uptake of whiteness scholarship in the field of early childhood has focussed predominantly on autobiographical narratives. These narratives recount white educators’ stories of ‘becoming aware’ or ‘unmasking’ their whiteness. In colonising contexts including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, understanding how whiteness operates in different ways and what this means for educational research and practice, can support researchers and educators to identify and describe more fully the impacts of subtle forms of racism in their everyday practices. In this paper, whiteness is explored in a broader sense as: a form of property; an organising principle for institutional behaviours and practices; and as a fluid identity or subject position. These three intersecting elements of whiteness are drawn on to analyse data from a doctoral study about embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in early childhood education curricula in two Australian urban childcare settings. Analysis is focussed on how whiteness operated within the research site and research processes, along with the actions, inaction and talk of two educators engaged in embedding work. Findings show that both the researcher and educators reinforced, rather than reduced the impacts of whiteness and racism, despite the best of intentions.
Key words: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; early childhood; racism; whiteness.
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