Gendered forces at work: tentacular encounters from the nursery

PhD thesis

Mohandas, S. 2023. Gendered forces at work: tentacular encounters from the nursery. PhD thesis Middlesex University School of Education
TypePhD thesis
TitleGendered forces at work: tentacular encounters from the nursery
AuthorsMohandas, S.

Engaging with a feminist relational onto-epistemology, my research seeks to produce generative re-imaginings of how a gendered workforce comes to matter in a North London Montessori nursery. Debates, policies and practices around gender in the early years workforce continue to be firmly rooted in binary male/female framings (DfE, 2017), in which the recruitment of men in some ways has problematically taken centre stage through “recuperative masculinity” interventions (Lingard & Douglas, 1999). While these issues are not separate from Montessori early childhood contexts, the gender-neutral framing of Montessori works to let gender completely fall off the agenda. By employing feminist theorisations that foreground materiality, affect, discourse, place and temporalities, this study unsettles such presumed neutrality, and demonstrates ways a “gendered workforce” can be understood differently.

The research emerged as situated evocations (Strathern, 1991) in a Montessori nursery in North London. Committed to Haraway’s (1988) situated knowledges and embodied perspectives, entangled authorship and “subjectivities” are emphasised as always already more-than-human. This is specifically made explicit in this thesis by how postcolonial and Dalit “subjectivities” intra-act to generate new theoretical connections, tensions and contradictions. Theoretical heterogeneity is thus welcomed by putting feminist “new” materialisms in conversation with anticolonial, decolonial and Dalit feminisms. These theoretical explorations have shaped the directions and orientations of this research.

By paying attention to everyday “objects” in the nursery such as tea, cameras and snot, Haraway’s (2016) SF practice is mobilised to make visible the complex intra-actions of manifold forces that are at once composed of gendered and more-than-gendered (i.e. racialised, “classed” and “casted”) relations, stories and worlds that would otherwise be lost through methodological individualism and human exceptionalism. The more-than-human orientation in this research allows for a reconceptualisation of a “gendered workforce” as gendered forces that work on, across and through bodies (human and not), spaces, places, and scales of time. The reconceptualisation grants the possibility to attune to the multiple, in/determinate and contradictory materialisations of gendered and more-than-gendered forces that cut through onto-epistemic boundaries. Each encounter is constituted and reconstituted by masculinist forces that privilege narrow gender formations that determine what counts as “human” (Wynter 2003), and at once composed of minor gestures (Manning, 2016) that present generative potentialities for the innumerable possibilities for becominggendered Otherwise (Huuki & Renold, 2015) amid the recuperative masculinity drives of neoliberal capitalism. An approach that foregrounds a more-than-human and relational conception of gender makes a hopeful, generative and expansive contribution to the field.

Sustainable Development Goals5 Gender equality
Middlesex University ThemeHealth & Wellbeing
Department nameSchool of Education
Health, Social Care and Education
Institution nameMiddlesex University
PublisherMiddlesex University Research Repository
Publication dates
Online21 Mar 2024
Publication process dates
Accepted15 Nov 2023
Deposited21 Mar 2024
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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