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A genealogical study of 'the child' as the subject of pre-compulsory education in Western Australia

Millei, Zsuzsa (2007) A genealogical study of 'the child' as the subject of pre-compulsory education in Western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The study produces a genealogy of 'the child' as the shifting subject constituted by the confluence of discourses that are utilized by, and surround, Western Australian precompulsory education. The analysis is approached as a genealogy of governmentality building on the work of Foucault and Rose, which enables the consideration of the research question that guides this study: How has 'the child' come to be constituted as a subject of regimes of practices of pre-compulsory education in Western Australia?

This study does not explore how the historical discourses changed in relation to 'the child' as a universal subject of early education, but it examines the multiple ways 'the child' was constituted by these discourses as the subject at which government is to be aimed, and whose characteristics government must harness and instrumentalize. Besides addressing the research question, the study also develops a set of intertwining arguments. In these the author contends that 'the child' is invented through historically contingent ideas about the individual and that the way in which 'the child' is constituted in pre-compulsory education shifts in concert with the changing problematizations about the government of the population and individuals. Further, the study demonstrates the necessity to understand the provision of pre-compulsory education as a political practice.

Looking at pre-compulsory education as a political practice de-stabilizes the takenfor-granted constitutions of 'the child' embedded in present theories, practices and research with children in the field of early childhood education. It also enables the de- and reconstruction of the notions of children's 'participation', 'empowerment' and 'citizenship'. The continuous de- and reconstruction of these notions and the destabilization of the constitutions of 'the child' creates a framework in which improvement is possible, rather than a utopian, wholesale and, thus revolutionary, transformation in early education (Branson and Miller, 1991, p. 187). This study also contributes to the critiques of classroom discipline approaches by reconceptualizing them as technologies of government in order to reveal the power relations they silently wield.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Supervisor(s): Lee-Hammond, Libby
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