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Teacher Otherness in Early Childhood Education: Rethinking uncertainty and difference through a Kristevan lens

…shall we be, intimately and subjectively, able to live with the others, to live as others, without ostracism but also without leveling? (Kristeva, 1991, p. 2, emphasis in the original) This thesis is a critical philosophical response to Kristeva’s opening question. I draw on Kristeva’s theories to challenge, question, and make accessible new contributions to conceptualisations of cultural Otherness in research and practice with, by and for early childhood teachers. The thesis aims to elevate such critical attention to the complexities of early childhood teacher Otherness, by repositioning the importance of the uncertainties and potentialities that arise in living ‘with’ and ‘as’ the Other. Kristeva’s work is seminal to my thinking and writing personally, professionally and philosophically. Most significantly, her philosophical and psychoanalytical notions of the foreigner, of the foreigner within, and her theory on the subject in process are fundamental to my examinations throughout this thesis. Highlighting the often unspeakable senses and experiences of being Other, unfamiliar, unpredictable, strange, Kristeva’s foreigner lens offers new opportunities for (re)articulating and (re)inserting some of the raw, nuanced intricacies of Otherness into teachers’ identity work. Each chapter performs a particular role in fulfilling these aims, and theoretically underpins the argument for elevating diverse ways of seeing teachers’ differences differently. Despite Aotearoa New Zealand’s globalised, culturally diverse society, teachers’ cultural Otherness is so far largely under-researched, both nationally and internationally. I respond to the hermeneutical gap arising as a result of this lack of research, and to simultaneous calls for increasingly critical philosophical thought in the field of early childhood education. Early childhood teachers’ crucial positioning in the wider society and their influence on young lives make reconceptualisations of their own cultural selves vital and urgent. The thesis culminates in concluding calls for revolt through an evolving model of useful entry points for further research and practice. The model draws on Kristeva’s (2014) concept of revolt, as “an opposition to already established norms, values and powers” (p. 4). It offers openings for constant critical renegotiations of limiting, marginalising or normalising practices and orientations. Kristeva’s assertion that there can be no evolution without revolt lays the foundation for critical philosophical engagements, as ‘mini revolts’, to rethink uncertainty and difference in relation to teachers’ Otherness. In conclusion I argue that Kristevan revolt is crucial, in small inner ways, and in wider societal and political ways, locally in Aotearoa New Zealand, and also globally.
Type of thesis
Arndt, S. K. (2017). Teacher Otherness in Early Childhood Education: Rethinking uncertainty and difference through a Kristevan lens (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11259
University of Waikato
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