All of the articles presented in this edition of Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood were originally presented by the authors at the 2004 international Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education conference. This conference, attended by 150 people from 19 nations, was held in Oslo, Norway, from 24 to 28 May. See www.reconece.org/ for details of this almost annual international event, which provides a forum for teachers, researchers, advocates and practitioners pursuing alternative perspectives in early childhood education, systems of child care and social provision, childhood carework and early childhood studies. A feature of the conference is that it expands the borders of the fields of the participants as they engage in conversations about emerging issues, contradictions and possibilities related to theory, research, policy and praxis. This edition of the journal results from the authors' continued thinking, reading and rewriting following the 2004 conference.
The theme of the 2004 conference held in Norway was 'Troubling Identities'. This is also the theme for this issue of the journal. Inherent here is the notion of identity functioning in communities, institutions, groups and individuals. This involves social and cultural recognition, self-representation, action, relations and ways of being. 'Troubling' may be something we do, as in troubling dominant discourses; or it may be a description, as in the things we find troubling. Here the issues include how identities are constructed and reconstructed, conceptualized and reconceptualized. Hence the authors of articles in this edition are both troubling and troubled by their own and others' uses of identities and multi-identities as concepts. Given the transdisciplinary qualities of contemporary early childhood research, the disciplinary framings from which they draw include blurrings of history, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, pedagogy, drama and visual arts, curriculum studies, philosophy, literary theory and media studies. As such they inform the field of early childhood research through a range of methodologies and epistemologies, theories of knowledge and critical issues, academic texts and generic practices.
Additionally, this edition presents some authors rarely published in English, though well known in their home languages and nations. For academics moving themselves between research cultures and languages, the issues are complex indeed. Here Anglo-American colonizing of non English-language research cultures and publications may be seen as undesirable. Some of the postmodern effects of this are that authors want to retain and develop their research profiles within their nations and linguistic locations, but at the same time to make their work available to nations outside these. Our hope is that the field itself is reconceptualized by multiplicities of research cultures and a wealth of publications unknown to academics reading English only. The experience of the editors and the reviewers for this particular edition thus regarded, in textual practice, the troubling of the identity of an academic journal and those working for it. Here we especially thank the reviewers of the articles from nations where English is not the language of the workplace. As befitting a published volume emerging from the first Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education conference to be held in Europe, we here present three articles from Sweden and two from Norway. These are not translations from those languages; each of the writers has worked in English from the beginning, because the writing of an academic article and its reference list is itself a cultural construct that differs within linguistic settings.
There are also two articles from English-speaking nations: the USA and the United Kingdom. From the USA, Gina Barclay-McLaughlin & J. Amos Hatch, as a black female and a white male, present a dialogue between themselves. This is a very thoughtful manuscript which addresses a topic of concern to critical and qualitative researchers alike: namely, the issue of difference from differing research paradigms. This is not the kind of dialogue you have in the kitchen, but a fusion of high levels of intellectual scholarship. What is fascinating here is the personal grounding of the arguments and the teasing out of details. As such it presents information in a new generic context for an international refereed journal. In this way it contributes to a level of complexity that is quite rare to find in the field of education. It is thus a new framing of ideas, making these more accessible to many readers. The detailed narratives are particularly interesting, as they illustrate power relations and how constructivist, critical and poststructuralist research might consider racial difference within their research designs.
From Norway, Faith Guss provides fascinating and provocative examples of children's dramatic play(ing) to present some very new ideas using frameworks from drama rather than from pedagogy. She argues for seeing drama through the lens of mimesis, as a valuable and creative political act, rather than seeing play as an instrumental tool for teaching skills or social competence. In doing so she reconceptualizes play, by troubling the identity of children's play(ing). Guss says that in dramatic form, through taking the perspective of, and momentarily becoming, The Other, children problematize and construct temporary identities.
Hillevi Lenz Taguchi, writing from Sweden, explores new and alternative perspectives to provide complex and rich reading about higher education for early childhoods. The article engages with poststructuralist approaches, identities, discourses of difference, voices, curriculum, culture and pedagogy. Lenz Taguchi questions how much agency is enabled for early childhood student teachers, and problematizes the possibilities through her own teaching practices. Here she works to construct or reinvent subject positions without imposing just another regime of normalization through pastoral power. In doing so she raises important questions about how much freedom is possible, even given overtly emancipist teaching. Her contribution is to the combination of bodies of research literature; and potentially to practice, analysis and the troubling of pedagogies.
Also from Sweden, Ulla Lind presents an interesting and unusual study of children at play, focusing in particular on phenomena related to children's discussions about their artistic creations. In doing so, Lind breaks new ground in utilizing rhizomatic analysis in portrayals of Reggio Emilia inspired pedagogy. Visual images illustrate the points. Lind emphasizes the relationship between building identity and having access to discourses. Through this she troubles identities of children and teachers within research practices, to unfold a negotiating practice of documentations in photographs and recorded conversations. The emphasis is on power and the interplay between visual and verbal signs.
In a third Swedish article, Kajsa Ohrlander presents a historical research project from postmodern positionings. In what is quite uncommon for CIEC articles, she questions how the reforms and activist actions of the 1960s and 1970s in Sweden intertwined a modernist effort at resistance and agency, a de-individuation of adults and children with a movement toward egalitarianism, and efforts to overturn through strategic and localized revolution. In the process she describes multiplicity, flexibility, changeability and uncertainty. These are characterized by notions embedded in her postmodernist theoretical writing. Ohrlander focuses on the idea of performance as local, political and strategic action; and of performativity as a way to address multiplicities of positionalities and possibilities. As such the article adds to both Swedish history of child care and to interrogating the binaries of modern/postmodern child, state/nonstate and family/non-family.
Berit Bae examines ethical issues that occur when a Norwegian university college researcher conducts participant observational research with preschool teachers. She contributes to a growing body of literature that problematizes power relations between researchers and their sites of work. Although it is not framed in this way per se, the article also complements recent publications in decolonizing research methodology, and in balancing voice in research with children. The focus of the article is on troubling the identity of a researcher, and the methodological and ethical issues arising in consequence.
From the United Kingdom, Derek Bunyard deconstructs the discourses of childhood that have much currency in many ongoing political debates. He does so with understandings from postmodern philosophy, and by writing within the postmodern. To consider childhood identity, Bunyard delves into popular culture, drawing on creations including Donna Harraway's cyborg, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Spielberg's David in the film AI Artificial Intelligence. The article contributes to pushing boundaries that work at securing childhood as a known and a fixed territory. Thinking about children as 'regenerative monsters' situates them as fragmented, where notions of being are premised on not only what is currently possible but also on that which is still to be considered a possibility.
Turning to colloquia and book reviews, in keeping with contributions to this issue from a range of countries, the colloquium by Turkish scholar Abdülkadir Kabadayi provides a story-based model aimed at fostering preschool children's communicative input and performance in the process of mother tongue acquisition. The three book reviews deal with a range of topics, namely, young boys and their achievement at school, how children are disciplined through the professions, and early childhood education as influenced by society and culture. Paul Connolly's Boys and Schooling in the Early Years (2004) draws on data from Ireland and is reviewed by Berenice Nyland. Karen Wohlwend provides a comprehensive assessment of an edited collection by Roxanna P. Transit (2004) titled Disciplining the Child via the Discourse of the Professions, and Jennifer Cartmel's review of Early Childhood Education: society and culture, edited by Angela Anning, Joy Cullen & Marilyn Fleer completes the book reviews for this issue.
Following the editorial is a list of reviewers who have supported the journal by refereeing articles published during 2005. We thank these people sincerely for the important contribution they have made to enhancing the scholarship of the field through their considered and professional feedback. Thanks and appreciation also go to Professor Collette Tayler (formerly Head, School of Early Childhood, Queensland University of Technology) for infrastructure and financial support of the journal since its inception, and to Katrina Weier, whose administrative skills and assistance are highly valued.
Oslo University College, Oslo, Norway
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia