Using Foucault’s notions of discourse to explore and research child sexuality
Flanagan, P. (2019). Using Foucault’s notions of discourse to explore and research child sexuality. Presented at the Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education Colloquium.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12740
“The object, in short, is to define the regime of power-knowledge-pleasure that sustains the discourse on human sexuality in our part of the world” (Foucault, 1978/1990, p. 11). Ideas of sexuality and ideas of childhood are located within historical, cultural and social contexts. Using Foucault’s notions of discourse, my doctoral study examines not only a history of childhood and sexuality, but also how language currently constructs the child and has effects on constructions of sexuality and childhood. Using six brief vignettes to engage parents, teachers and counsellors, as participants in talk about sexuality in childhood, I identified language that (re)constructs childhood and sexuality/gender. I describe citational chains that reiterate and repeat constructions of childhood and sexuality/gender as: 1. Children should only know about sex as heteronormatively gendered; 2. Children should not know about sex as reproduction; and 3. Children should not know about sex as pleasure. In studying language used by adults (parents, teachers and counsellors) in their talk about childhood and sexuality, Foucauldian discourse analysis provides a methodological approach to analyse effects of power/knowledge. Together with Butlerian performative theory and queer theory, an example of relations of power is given to show how adult language constructs and reconstructs childhood as innocent and ignorant of sexuality knowledge of reproduction and pleasure while also reiterating childhood sexuality as heteronormatively gendered.
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