Bodies as Sites of Cultural Reflection in Early Childhood Education  book cover
1st Edition

Bodies as Sites of Cultural Reflection in Early Childhood Education

ISBN 9781138795044
Published November 20, 2014 by Routledge
200 Pages

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Book Description

Taking the body as a locus for discussion, Rachael S. Burke and Judith Duncan argue not only that implicit cultural practices shape most of the interactions taking place in early childhood curricula and pedagogy but that many of these practices often go unnoticed or unrecognized as being pedagogy. Current scholars, inspired by Foucault, acknowledge that the body is socially and culturally produced and historically situated—it is simultaneously a part of nature and society as well as a representation of the way that nature and society can be conceived. Every natural symbol originating from the body contains and conveys a social meaning, and every culture selects its own meaning from the myriad of potential body symbolisms.

Bodies as Sites of Cultural Reflection in Early Childhood Education uses empirical examples from qualitative fieldwork conducted in New Zealand and Japan to explore these theories and discuss the ways in which children’s bodies represent a central focus in teachers’ pedagogical discussions and create contexts for the embodiment of children’s experiences in the early years.

Table of Contents








CHAPTER 1: Introduction


Personal Connections

Theoretical Underpinnings

Marcel Mauss and the emergence of the body in anthropological theory.

The work of Mary Douglas.

Michel Foucault and the body.

The three bodies.

Methodology Behind the Scenes

The Field

Field site structure and daily routines.

Fieldwork methods.

The Development of Early Childhood Services in New Zealand and Japan

New Zealand.


Bodily Practices.

Outline of the Book

Chapter References

Chapter Endnotes


CHAPTER 2: Children’s Bodies as Contested Sites


The Un(clothed) Body

The naked child in Japanese educational settings.

The Japanese Child’s Body as a Symbol of Nostalgia

Skinship as cultural ideology.

The collective unclothed body.

The Protected Body in New Zealand Early Childhood Education

Bodies under surveillance.

Normalising the clothed body.

Keeping the Japanese Child’s Body Safe

Framing the Child’s Body

Notions of privacy.

The Body as a Site of Excretion

The body as teacher in Japanese early childhood education.

Reflecting on Children’s Bodies as Culturally Contested

Chapter References

Chapter Endnotes


CHAPTER 3: Embodying the Curriculum


Engaging the Body in Sensory Play

Wrapping and unwrapping the body.

Messy play.

The Body as a Counterpoint to Modern Lifestyles

Body Techniques

The cultural meanings of touch.

The body as a medium of communication.

The Physical Self

Embodying gambaru in the Japanese context.

Reflections on Embodying the Curriculum

Chapter References

Chapter Endnotes


CHAPTER 4: Risk and the Body


Towards a Discourse of Risk

The Position of Children in the Risk Society

Perilous Play: The Kindergarten Playground as Culturally Contested Space

A Pedagogy of Risk

Creating Real and Imagined Boundaries to Minimise Risk

Cultural Definitions of Safe Supervision

The low profile of Japanese teachers.

The use of real tools.

Tools as iconic symbols.

Assessing the risks and rewards of real tools.

Defining objects in play as safe or risky.

Perceptions of Risk and the Body

Chapter References

Chapter Endnotes


CHAPTER 5: The Body as a Site of Discipline


Deconstructing Noise

Noise as counterproductive.

Noise as organic.

Conflict and Confrontation

Rights discourses in New Zealand.

The lessons of conflict.

Learning communicative competency.

Developing empathy.

The Use of Time and Space

Time and space as disciplinary techniques in the Japanese kindergarten.

Children’s Bodies as Objects of the Medical Gaze

Reflecting on the Body as a Site of Discipline

Chapter References

Chapter Endnotes


CHAPTER 6: The Body as Natural Symbol


Dirt and the Body

The Physical Body as a Microcosm of Society

The Symbolism of Protective Barriers

Bodily Fluids as Metaphors of Disorder

Purification of the Body

Polluted spaces.

Food In and Out of Place

Rituals around food.

The lunchbox as a reflection of cultural ideology.

Reflecting on Constructions of Dirt, Pollution and Purity

Chapter References

Chapter Endnotes


CHAPTER 7: Bodies in Context


Bodies from the Beginning

Constructing the body.

The body and its products.

Internalising techniques of the body.

Order and the body.

Approaches to Dirt and Pollution

Coming Full Circle

Chapter References



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Rachael S. Burke is Postdoctoral Fellow at Hiroshima University, Japan. She also conducts independent research in her role as Director of Small Earth Consulting Ltd., New Zealand.

Judith Duncan is Professor of Education, School of Educational Studies and Leadership, at University of Canterbury, New Zealand.


"A fascinating read but one that could potentially be a little cognitively challenging in places, if you are more a fan of practical, rather than academic, books. This would be very helpful for students looking to do an interesting dissertation for their early years degree, MA or PHD." – Martine Horvath, EYE Magazine

"Implicit cultural beliefs shape how children’s bodies are read, organized, responded to, and disciplined in early childhood education. This book makes some of these taken-for-granted beliefs and practices visible, thereby allowing for discussion about what it is that we believe about and want for young children in daycare." - Gail Boldt, Professor of Education, Pennsylvania State University, USA

"This book is closely aligned with the changing, theoretically advancing field of early childhood education at large. The work is interesting, critically reflective, effectively engages critical theories, and addresses the changing nature of the fields of study. The authors effectively use popular critical theoretical perspectives to deconstruct popular notions about children and childhood and embed creative research lenses to assist in these focused endeavors." - Richard T. Johnson, Professor, Curriculum Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA