Identity and social interaction in a multi-ethnic classroom

BARLEY, Ruth (2014). Identity and social interaction in a multi-ethnic classroom. Tufnell Press.


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Drawing on research findings from an ethnography conducted with young children, exploring notions of difference, identity and patterns of interaction, this study uncovers how four and five year-olds conceptualise and operationalise identity in a multi-ethnic Early Years classroom in the North of England. Situated in a particular local context, the study provides an in-depth insight into the experiences of a diverse group of children from North and Sub-Saharan African countries who have come together in a single school setting. The study highlights how these children are influenced by social structures such as those pertaining to racism, gender inequality, Islamaphobia, ‘the war on terror’ and events in the Arab Spring. Revealing how identities unfold over time, the research shows that children’s everyday social interactions are enabled and constrained by these wider structural discourses as they (re)negotiate their identities against this complex backdrop. Dynamic local and global politics, the arrival of new classmates, changes in family structures and Koranic school attendance all influence children’s everyday sense of self and are reflected in the development of peer relationships at school. Developing a theoretical framework that understands identity as performative, situated and dialectical, this study discusses the dual roles of structural discourses and social agency within the context of identity (re)negotiation. Framing identity within a ‘strong structuration’ framework that seeks to understand ontology-in-situ, this study uncovers how young children understand notions of self and others and how wider social discourses of discrimination and hierarchies of difference play a part in how young children understand ethnic, religious and gender difference. The study unearths how young children explore their own and their peers’ identities amongst themselves before raising questions for how policy and practice can best support children in this aspect of their social development.

Item Type: Authored Book
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Depositing User: Ruth Barley
Date Deposited: 27 May 2015 13:31
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2015 04:26

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