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Inside the 'Inclusive' Early Childhood Classroom

The Power of the 'Normal'


Karen Watson

Inside the Inclusive Childhood Classroom: The Power of the Normal’ offers a critique of current practices and alternative view of inclusion. The rich data created inside three classrooms will challenge those who work in the field, as the children and their performances, previously overlooked, are foreground. Although at times confronting, it is ultimately invaluable reading for classroom teachers, students, academics, and researchers as well as anyone who desires to deepen their understanding of inclusive processes. The inclusion of children with diagnosed special needs in mainstream early childhood classrooms is a policy and practice that has gained universal support in recent decades. Exploring ways to include the diagnosed child has been of interest to inclusive research. Adopting a poststructural perspective, this book interrupts taken for granted assumptions about inclusive processes in the classroom. Attention is drawn to the role played by the undiagnosed children, those positioned as already included. Researching among children, this ethnography interrogates the production of the classroom ‘normal’. As the children negotiate difference, the operations of the ‘normal’ are made visible in their words and actions. In their encounters with the diagnosed Other, they take up practices of tolerance and silence, effecting fear, separation, and a desire to cure. These performances echo practices, presumed abandoned, from centuries past. As a way forward this book urges a rethink of practice-as-usual, as these effects are problematic for inclusion and not sustainable. A greater scrutiny of the ‘normal’ is needed, as the power it exercises, impacts on all children and how they become subjects in the classroom.

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4 Exploring the Role of Non-Human Actors in the Production and Maintenance of the ‘Normal’



Exploring the Role of Non-Human Actors in the Production and Maintenance of the ‘Normal’

Attention to non-human actors, and how they contribute to the construction of the ‘normal’, while at the same time further marking the diagnosed child in the ‘inclusive’ classroom, is the focus of this chapter. Foucault’s (1977) exploration of the effects and disciplinary power of architecture and other created physical spaces, provides the stimulus for this section of work. It brings into focus the material and non-human world and the power relations with the human world. From this perspective, physical things and actions take on meaning and become objects of knowledge within discourse and context (Hook, 2001). As Foucault (1972) argues, nothing exists outside discourse where meaning and meaningful practice is constructed. Continuing with this postulating, Foucault appreciates that we can only have knowledge of ‘things’ if they have meaning which is constructed in discourse, as it is not the ‘things’ themselves that produce the knowledge. Discursive formations produce the objects about which they speak (Dreyfus & Rabinow, 1982, p. 61). Objects and ‘things’ are discussed here, as they produce meanings within the ‘inclusive’ early childhood classroom. “Attention to non-human others—the physical world, the materials—that mingle in early childhood practices is the key” (Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2012, p. 155) to this chapter. Non-human actors produce meaning about human subjects, creating a network that actively and powerfully shape subject positionings.←85 | 86→

The work of Latour (2005) and the ideas underpinning...

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