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Research 旺财体育

Infantologies. An EPAT collective writing project

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Received 28 Sep 2020
Accepted 28 Sep 2020
Published online: 27 Oct 2020

Infantologies is a collective writing project designed to express and summarise important ideas, approaches and forms of advocacy in a short and condensed method, in order to present a network of diverse themes, arguments and evidence concerning infants. This is a collective writing project invited fifteen scholars to participate by writing 500 words with maximum of 5 references in a short period of time (normally a couple of weeks). It is a kind of clearing house for dominant statements about the importance of the world of infants, their evolving minds, and physical and social bodies, and the crucial impact of parental, family, cultural, social and physical environments. This writing project follows the methodology of collective writing and builds on recent EPAT collective writing projects. Jayne White curated the section 鈥業nfant Theories for Contemporary Times鈥 and Marek Tesar curated 鈥楶edagogical Frameworks鈥. Other collective writing projects that resonate with infantologies will follow, including Infastasies and Infanticides.

Infantologies: The delicate ecology of the mind

Michael A. Peters Beijing Normal University, PR China

鈥業nfantologies鈥 is the term we have coined for the philosophy, education and care of infants. It differs from early childhood education not merely in chronology but also in terms of the forms of learning with an emphasis on those activities learned without formal instruction: seeing, talking, walking, eating, sleeping, and relating. These activities are part of an interconnected development of consciousness that is the delicate ecology of mind. All of these fundamentally human and mammalian activities are learned during the infant years. Activity patterns laid down in the first years helps to determine both sociability and adult functionality as well as the ability to learn. The infant鈥檚 physiology and brain development are both very rapid and complexly interrelated. The infant differs from the child in multiple ways. Certain philosophical arguments that have traditionally been applied to children as miniature adults do not readily apply to infants. While the concepts of baby and infant are part of the same language-game, different cultures appraise them differently. In the West there are also different philosophies of the infant that have influenced learning and pedagogical traditions. In the East and with Indigenous societies it is important to recognize that culture and social relations shape different social philosophies valuing the infant and influencing her social development. At the level of physiology and in the transition to human consciousness the infant can exhibit different forms of sensory awareness, show facial expressions and respond to the environment in dynamic ways. The infant is able to demonstrate some of the characteristics of consciousness even in the womb and to differentiate between self and nonself while the brain is yet to mature. Latest neuroscience indicates that the cortex starts to form at six months gestation and that the foetus can recognize the mother鈥檚 voice. This indicates that auditory language learning starts in the womb and is bound up with changes in the in聽vitro environment. The development of consciousness is the activation of the cortex that integrates visual, auditory and sensorimotor sensory inputs in a progressive and functional evolution of complex and rapidly evolving structure that respond to the environment and carry its traces. Babies are able to show emotion and signs of shared feelings in response to others. The infant rapidly becomes aware of its body and responds to touch, smell and sound. This is a dynamic and rapidly changing set of physiological processes that register the richness of the socio-cultural environment that can enable or damage the infant and help or hinder development. In the evolution of consciousness from pre-programmed states in subcortical origins babies are typically able to memorise and process mental representations. There is an intricate infant ecology based on continuous interactions between the brain, body, and environment from within the womb until the activation of the cortex some months after birth building a unified consciousness that can recognise and harness temporal processes, place in time and space, and also process memories of the past. The inner sense of temporality is a delicate feature of consciousness that begins in the infant and enables an awareness of activity and its future effects. The study of the philosophy of the infant and the awareness of the intricacy of its growing consciousness is a necessary element of infantology in order to understand the ways in which cognitive, emotional, and socio-cultural capacities are inextricably intertwined throughout the infant years. Infant theories and pedagogies, whether they be 鈥榯heory theory鈥 (using the same processes as scientists) or attachment theory based on the depth and emotional parent-child relationship or enactment theory, need to understand the world of the infant and the evolution of social consciousness as a basis for pedagogical intervention or, indeed, infant learning theory.

Infant-sees as ontologies

E. Jayne White RMIT University, Australia

The ways in which infants are 鈥榮een鈥 as learners (or otherwise) cannot be easily separated from the philosophies, theories and their rise or fall within extant ideologies that shape our visage (White & Dalli, 2016). Dominant theories that have long influenced learning and pedagogical traditions have persistently failed to account for infancies beyond limiting linguistic and cognitive assertions drawn from observations in developmental psychology and cognitive science As early as 1877 Darwin, in his famous 鈥淏aby biographies鈥, sought to understand infants through intense biological observations. Followed by Goldfarb, Freud, Fraiberg and Piaget, infants were variously cast as pre-operational, pre-moral and pre conscious. Dominant eschatological sightings such as these led to the view that infants were incapable, unformed and helpless. The societal solution to their vulnerabilities was to lodge infants in the bosom of their mother, in the privacy of home, beyond public scrutiny and, fuelled by Vygotsky鈥檚 (1934) placement, outside the realms of learning. Such lenses are now found wanting in contemplation of the public institutional spaces where infants are 鈥榚ducated鈥 outside of the home. Notwithstanding a lingering emphasis on whether infant's 鈥榦ught鈥 to be in these more formal educational settings (based on patriarchal 鈥榓ttachment鈥 legacies) recent economic agendas have cast a 鈥榥ew normality鈥 for infant lives. In these public spaces' infant-sees are called to account. Despite this altered milieu, structural and dynamic features of 鈥榪uality鈥 derived from inherited observable measurement scales and standards, proclaim a universally knowable infant. This assurance is further bolstered by neurological studies warning of dire long-term consequences when these quality measures are not met. In this era of observation as accountability, little pause is given to the 鈥榦logies鈥 that frame this seeing, or its implications for infancy.

Now, more than ever before, there is an increasing need for philosophical scrutiny of these assertions 鈥 some returning us to the ontological routes of becoming (White & Mika, 2019). Tracing a legacy of philosophical thought it becomes possible to re-view infancies as a time of freedom and beauty through Romanticist eyes, a source of wisdom and insight in Nietzsche鈥檚 child, or collapse infant categories altogether in the wake of Deleuzian dreaming. The seeings and, indeed, the sayings (Cheeseman et聽al., 2015) that arise out of such sightings call us into relational, reflectional, ethical and sensory encounters with infants as fully conscious partners in real life events of co-becoming. Examining the provocations of these 鈥榠nfant-sees鈥 against what is apparently 鈥榢nown鈥 may lead us to revise our certainties in deference to the (now) fully conscious and capable infant subject who thinks as well as acts in, with and on a changing world. In this locale important ontologies come into view concerning the essence of infancy, its status, vulnerabilities and opportunities and, by correlation, re-locate the infant as participating subject on their own (corporeal) terms rather than the mere object of adults' gaze. Correspondingly we might question the contemporary uncontested, paradoxical locale of infant (versus 鈥榗hild鈥) in education (White, 2019) by summoning a series of important philosophical insights to orient these and other questions concerning infants, their status or their lives that exceed universal definitions and associated pedagogies. Given increased attention to social contexts, individual and ethnic diversity, proto- and post-pandemic futures, these shifting lenses call us into revised contemplations concerning infant becomings in and for futures we cannot yet theorise but to which we are called to 鈥榮ee鈥.

Economies of Infantology

Marek Tesar The University of Auckland

The discourses of infantology arise from the questions, who is an infant, and how should we care for them? The scientific and lay discourses associated with education and care continue to mirror the dominant societal construct of an infant as ontologically incomplete, a being-in-waiting who is helpless, needing constant support, care and love. Additionally, calling a newborn an 鈥榠nfant鈥 resembles a technical term, considering age as the determiner (eg under 1鈥墆ear old; under 2鈥墆ears old for the needs of airlines, under 18 in legal terms etc). It is a narrative that relies on our capacity to see an infant through a developmental and medical lens (Tesar, 2016).

In this short text, the perpetuated idea of development and infant as being ontologically incomplete relates to the economies of infantology and to an 鈥榚xtra cost鈥. The ideas of 鈥榚xtra cost鈥 and monetary positions revolve around infantology. Firstly, it relates to the extensive financial investment from the family on the wide range of specialised resources, equipment, and food that are considered to be 鈥榥ecessary鈥, 鈥榞ood鈥, 鈥榩roper鈥 and 鈥榬elevant鈥 to the infant, and the high pricing and specific labelling 鈥 as natural, organic etc 鈥 of resources that are apparently required to be purchased for the benefit of an infant. For parents (and mothers especially) to purchase and use these products means to be considered a 鈥榞ood鈥 parent in and by society. Secondly, it is the cost of education for infants. To have an infant at home with a parent means the sacrifice of income 鈥 whether the parent (usually the mother) stays at home and looks after the child, or if they decide to hire a nanny. The alternative to maintain work and send an infant to a childcare setting costs a significant amount of money as well, as most countries do not have nationalised or truly cost-free childcare. Thirdly, the area around economies of infantology is the idea of infants (and young children) being associated with financial discounts or 鈥榝ree鈥 offers. Infants often can enter certain places and spaces for 鈥榝ree鈥; in some countries they receive healthcare at no-cost to parents and families, and even certain items are free for them. 鈥楩ree鈥 stays at some hotels and 鈥榝ree鈥 meals at others. Travelling with an infant on planes means often paying 10% of the adult rate (if no seat is purchased) and 鈥榝ree鈥 or a small fee for a cot on long-haul flights, which causes sometimes the envy to many not upgraded economy passengers. Infants often receive reduce-priced (and smaller portioned) meals. However, there are also plenty of spaces and places that restrict access to infants because of the economy of those places associated with adults 鈥 ontologically complete beings 鈥 where an infant would be a disruption 鈥 a disorder, irrational and uncontrollable human being (Peters & Tesar, 2015; Tesar, 2020).

Perhaps the economy of infantology is even more pressing during the time of Covid-19 when securing a nanny or a babysitter for essential workers or for those who really need them, became an extra cost and nearly impossible task. Economies of infantology also relate to what is socially and culturally accepted in groups and societies and what is perceived as useful and dangerous. Another area linked to economies of infantology means looking and considering infantology in the digital age (see Hood & Tesar, 2019; Tesar & Hood, 2019). As such, the economies of infantology offers an additional lens for considering the 鈥渉uman being in waiting鈥 in relation to the world driven and determined by adults.

Ready to sit: Infantology and the teaching subject

Andrew Gibbons Auckland University of Technology

During the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand a primary school principal wrote an open letter to both the Minister of Education and the Chief Executive of Education expressing concerns for the safety of primary school teachers. The letter responded publicly to Government plans to facilitate the return of students to primary and secondary schools. The open letter made national and international news, with headlines emphasising that teachers were concerned that they would be used as babysitters.

Teachers going back to schools could be understandably anxious about their well-being and the well-being of their families and communities if schools were to reopen. Anxiety is reasonable despite claims by the Ministry of Education regarding the apparent safety of teachers. Ministry-speak went as far as claiming that a teacher would not get infected because children did not pass on the virus to adults - advice published by the Ministry of Education in its bulletins to early childhood education services in May, 2020.

It is not clear, however, why an anxiety for returning to schools and being in classroom spaces with children could justify claims that teachers would be 鈥榡ust babysitting鈥. Teachers who oppose being babysitters reveal the edges of public opinion and acceptance regarding advocacy for infant care and education. For instance, the power of brain research to shift the thinking of teachers seems limited if teachers can reject the idea of being a babysitter as not a thing that teachers can or should do (although in making this claim a great deal of care needs to be taken with the disciplinary applications of baby brain neuromyths).

To single out teachers with regards the discursive marginalisation of infancy evident in the classification of adult behaviours such as babysitting is of course unfair and short-sighted. Advocates for the professionalisation of work with infants have actively rejected the idea of being a 鈥榞lorified babysitter鈥, and this with good reason given that the label of glorified babysitting tended to be used in conservative political circles to reject claims for better funding and better recognition of the early childhood sector as a justified and valued subsector of the education system.

Conservatives are not alone in their undermining of the baby and the babysitter. This pejorative application of babysitting, of just babysitting, speaks to a critical challenge for any philosophy of the infant or infantology. Perhaps there is even a sense of a key objective or outcome for the infantologist in this very public demeaning of babysitting. Put simply, infantology has the political and philosophical task of entering the public debate with questions, observations and challenges that support a nation of principals, teachers, families, communities, and policymakers in reflection on what conditions and relationships make it possible to talk about babysitting in this way, to better (or at least differently) understand the ecologies around the baby that are implicated in the negation of babysitting as that which is not what teachers do, and to work together to address those conditions and relationships so as to reconceptualise, reform or reconstruct the conceptual and organisational apparatuses that lock the baby and the babysitter into a position at the bottom of the social, political, and educational ladder.

The profession of infant care and education continues to distance itself from the language of babysitting when perhaps the task should be to embrace the concept and practice. Embracing babysitting engages a new and care-full meaning for infantilisation through the philosophy of the infant and the work of infantology. Infantology takes up the task of kicking the ladder over. Infantology then has the task of speaking to babysitting - such that thinking about being a babysitter is opened up. There are significant pedagogical possibilities in this opening up of the thinking of the teacher with regards sitting with the baby.

Shifting orientations through infant-ology

Sonja Arndt University of Melbourne, Australia

From a poststructuralist perspective we might question whether we can ever know an other. Rather we could say that we are always in process, and therefore foreigners even to ourselves. To claim that we can 鈥榢now鈥 infants, then, may be lofty and wholly unthinkable. Maybe reorienting ourselves towards knowing infants by adding the suffix 鈥榦logy鈥, grants us permission to sit with not knowing? Derived from the Greek 鈥榯he science of鈥 or 鈥榯he study of鈥, adding 鈥榦logy鈥 perhaps shifts our approach towards knowledge, offering instead possibilities to recognize more emphatically that identities and beings remain constantly in construction. Infant-ology then might offer the potential to move away from any goal of scientific, measurable knowledge, obtained through such questioning which demands answers and reasons. Maybe it instead propels the 鈥榮tudy of infants鈥 into a realm where we could question what or who is an infant, and thus infan-cy? A common identifier that might be culturally, socially or geographically influenced is at what age children are seen as 鈥榓n infant鈥, and when are they not - not yet, or no longer. From some perspectives the question of the age of infancy may appear easily determined, developmentally mappable and theoretically analysable. The perceived certainty and security of the strictures of such determinations has long grounded pedagogical, curricular and policy thinking on the care, education and nurturing of infants. Guiding views on what infants can and can鈥檛 do at particular ages and predetermined stages, they defined normality, ensconced in and firmly entrenching particular dominant cultural and gendered views and orientations.

Perhaps infant-ology can generate a new conceptual space in which to question whose voices are heard in such determinations? Maybe shifting the study of infants and infancy to a focus on infantology is the shift that finally permits a more emphatic focus, through a new consciousness, on elevating minority voices, including Indigenous, refugee and other border crossing groups, Global South and those of cultures othered across the globe? In a world that even during a global pandemic and heightened interconnectedness marginalizes particular views, infantology could raise levels of awareness of those subjugated orientations towards infants and infancy and what those terms mean. Societal ideals and futures rest on expectations of and for their young. They frame potential skills and abilities, treatments, dress, and place in the greater assemblage of life and world. They frame even whether infants are only human, or whether infantology encompasses also the more-than-human evoked in recent posthuman and new materialist studies. In a decentering of traditional developmental studies of infants and infancy infantology could similarly question the exceptionalism not only of dominant theoretical and cultural, but species-specific elevations. In contemporary times of extreme uncertainty infantology offers the opportunity for a generative new conceptual openness, in orientations to infants, to knowledge and ultimately to ourselves.

Infant theories for contemporary times

Lived spaces for infantology

Niina Rutanen University of Jyv盲skyl盲, Finland

Whose place is this? Is there space for infants and infancy? With these questions, I will explore some aspects linked to infants and infants鈥 lives that are significant for understanding infants and infancy. The theoretical starting point is that space is relationally produced in everyday interactions. This relational production refers to the process that intertwines physical environments and concrete objects, personal interpretations of physical and cultural space, and cultural and collective views about space (Lefebvre, 1991; Raittila, 2008; Soja, 1996; Vuorisalo et聽al., 2015).

In societies, 鈥渃onceived space鈥 (Lefebvre, 1991) for infants is fueled by the descriptions of the 鈥渢ypical infant鈥 offered by health services and maternity clinics, but also broader and network-like sources such as social media. Because of the particular characterizations and interpretations of infants, often as psycho-biological individuals, the 鈥渕ap鈥 that is drawn to respond to their needs is focused on the primary caretaker and private spaces. The conceived space is manifested in designs, institutional rules, and symbols around infancy and the proper place of a (vulnerable) infant: the home, the crib, the nurturing and caring caretaker, and, often, the mother. 鈥淧erceived space鈥 (Lefebvre, 1991) adds another layer to understanding space for infants. A material environment of colorful illustrations, accessible toys, padded cribs, and especially the socio-spatial practices linked to this material environment is concrete, observable, perceived space. It reflects the conceived space of what is right and age-appropriate for infants as activity and place in particular societies.

With spatial thinking, the addition of yet another lens is important. This is the lens of 鈥渓ived space鈥: the subjective, bodily, lived experience. The lived space is a result of the dialogical relation of conceived and perceived space, without being reducible to either of them. Lefebvre鈥檚 (1991) powerful point was that the lived space is dominated by the representations of those in power. Even infants have agentic positions in the social construction of space through their bodily lived experience, reflecting the fact that there are hierarchies in the production of space. Thus, these hierarchies lead to the contemplation of ideas about the private, the public, and the spaces where the youngest members of our society are allowed into and restricted or constrained from. Mobility is linked to access. However, the social construction of space goes beyond the physical boundaries of space with spatial imaginaries.

Socio-spatial approaches emphasize relations and relational nature of infants and infancy. To support this view, building on generational order (Alanen, 2009), we should explore infancy as a social category and a social status, constituted in relation to other categories in defining our social worlds and societies. These views would complement the in-depth knowledge on infant becoming from a relational perspective.

Infantologies and the relational space

Sheila Degotardi Macquarie University, Australia

In recent years, the statement that 鈥榬elationships are at the centre of our curriculum鈥 has become ubiquitous in early childhood policy and professional literature. This is particularly the case in the infant early childhood space, where attachment theory stresses the importance of stable and nurturing relationships for children鈥檚 wellbeing. Alongside recent debates about professional love (Page, 2018), such approaches call for adults to be responsive to infants鈥 needs, wants and emotions. But pedagogical interpretations of attachment theory tend to downplay infants' perspectives, portraying them as beings with needs to be satisfied, and emotions to be regulated (Degotardi & Pearson, 2009). The onus of responsibility is on the adult, who, by providing consistent and sensitive responses, imbues the infant with the security that they need to thrive. The goal of such pedagogies is to form a secure relationship between adult and infant. Yet a relationship is more than an end in itself. Rooted in a history of social interactions, relationships are conduits for learning 鈥 interpersonal and inter-psychological connections that allow one mind to connect with another (Degotardi, 2014). This metaphorical space is interactive and interpretive, where shared meaning is established through the reciprocal expression and interpretation of perspectives. The infant is an integral contributor 鈥 one with a mind who, through dialogue, intersects with the other so that individual perspectives become known.

Yet some question whether we can presume to 鈥榢now鈥 the infant, arguing that because infants lack language to express their perspectives, they are unable to be known by others. They are impenetrable, private, and their subjectivity is unreachable. This position, I contest, underestimates human capabilities. Infants connect socially and psychologically with others from birth, adjusting their communicative overtures to respond to and effect the psychological states of the other (Rochat, 2001). Adults too, intuitively appeal to what they assume the infant wants, feels, knows and thinks. In essence, human beings are 鈥榝olk psychologists鈥 who adopt an interpretive stance to respond to what they think going on in the others鈥 minds. It is in this 鈥榮pace between鈥 - this intersubjectivity - that ideas and understandings are shared, negotiated and constructed.

So the question remains, can we ever 鈥榢now鈥 the infant? Can we ever actually 鈥榢now鈥 anyone? The answer is 鈥榩robably not鈥, but that should not stop us from trying. It is the interpretive act that compels us reach out to the other 鈥 to create the relational space that connects us, psychologically, with the infant. In the absence of interpretation, the infant is reduced to a mysterious object that we may look upon with curiosity and admiration, but with whom we can never truly connect. Infantology in the relational space is about each person creating and utilising opportunities to get to know self-in-relation-to-other. Adopting an interpretive stance is a pedagogical imperative that, far from imposing on the infant, respects the infant as a sentient and contributing person (Degotardi, 2014). It is a continuously negotiating process which creates an ethical encounter (Cheeseman, 2017), that not only builds relationships, but also allows individuals to learn with and from their culture鈥檚 community of minds.

Practice architectures for infantologies: Arrangements that enable and constrain infant learning

Andi Salamon Charles Sturt University, Australia

According to the theory of practice architectures (TPA) social sites of practice are constituted by 鈥榩ractice architectures鈥, which exist as unique, sedimented, site specific 鈥榓rrangements鈥 that develop over time (Salamon et聽al., 2016). TPA is used in research to deconstruct and analyse individual practices, and the practice architectures that enable and constrain them, with a view to achieve praxis, 鈥渢he good for the person, and the good for humankind鈥 (Kemmis, 2019, p. 93). TPA has been used in research about infants鈥, toddlers鈥 and educators鈥 practices in early childhood education, with a particular view to highlight infants鈥 agency and examine arrangements that enable and constrain their learning (Salamon, 2017). For example, early childhood educators鈥 perceptions of infants as more and less capable of managing social and emotional situations impacted on the quality of relationships they developed with those educators, and, subsequently, infants鈥 experiences in the learning environment (Salamon, 2017; Salamon & Harrison, 2015).

TPA can help deconstruct taken for granted and implicit beliefs about infants that can constrain possibilities for their learning (Salamon et聽al., 2016) and maintain a focus on the 鈥榞reater good鈥 for very young children. Taken for granted perceptions of infant for example, brings the question of education and pedagogy for and with infants starkly to the fore, especially when navigating dominant discourses of what is valued and valuable to learn. According to Kemmis (2019) the bigger project of education on an individual level fulfils the good of each person, an education for living well. The good of an infant, living well, is inherently tied to their well-being and opportunities for their optimal learning (byway of optimising their being well). More than at any other age, however, infants鈥 well-being is largely dependent on adults, and the arrangements that enable and constrain their own practices. Infant and toddler pedagogy needs educators who will navigate and transform the practice architectures that constrain praxis, to uphold infants鈥 protection and participation rights in quality early childhood education, as set out in the 旺财体育s of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

If early childhood education is devalued in society, as indicated by the poor conditions and political struggles, infant and toddler pedagogy is even less valued. In early childhood education settings in Australia, for example, it is common to routinely place four-year trained university qualified teachers in older age groups rather than with the youngest children, resulting in teams of poorly qualified and/or experienced staff. It is within these arrangements that taken for granted beliefs are perpetuated, infants are underestimated and misunderstood, their rights are denied, and their optimal learning is compromised. If learning happens in practices, and learning shapes and reshapes practices (Kemmis, 2019), to fulfil the collective purpose of education and help create a world worth living in for the good of mankind (Kemmis, 2019), then, arguably, we need the most passionate, sophisticated and knowledgeable practitioners working with infants and toddlers.

Infantology and Indigenous Australian ways of knowing

Kim Browne Deakin University, Geelong Waurn Ponds, Australia

Infants are always-already capable and knowing beings. This statement consciously acknowledges Indigenous Australian interrelationalities of theorising the infant as becoming-with/through-self, interconnected with the more-than-human world. Before/with/after the birthing of a baby within Indigenous cultures, such connections 鈥 are already in knowing and welcomed 鈥 with the land, waterways, climate, languages, people, animals, the skies and the spirit world. Temporally and spatially, infantology and the knowing ways of Indigeneity, become interrelational. Never segregated, nor severed. Nurture for/with infants is proudly exchanged, felt and shared throughout an Indigenous Australian community. Before/with/after birth an infant is becoming with Indigeneity 鈥 physically, identifiably and culturally 鈥 through relationships with Elders, parents, and kin. Interwoven with cultural kinship, safety and law, community education and knowledge of country, 鈥榚veryone is there for the little one鈥 (Lowell et聽al., 2018, p. 7). Sustaining relationships of knowing where you are from, who you are and what is valued within your community matters in Indigenous Australian cultures (Proud & Raciti, 2016). Indigenous communities consciously protect the past, present and future of this old-living culture and relationally and reciprocally maintain connections to/with/through infants birthed within.

Yet, speaking of such theoretical Indigenous ways of knowing is risky within early childhood services. Early childhood education in Australia is premised on Westernised values which dominate policy and practice (Krakouer & Australian Council of Educational Research [ACER], 2016). Infantologies of Indigenous ways of knowing are less visible. In some Indigenous communities, older children are responsible for infants and kinship lore may be dismissed if children are divided by age in an early childhood service (Grace & Trudgett, 2012). Practices of sleeping with babies are shared between parents and infants by some Indigenous families and cultural knowledges are exchanged through songs, dance, and stories (Grace & Trudgett, 2012). Already familiar, nurturing cultural ways are known to Indigenous infants but are underrepresented in a Westernised early childhood setting. Fewer Indigenous infants than non-Indigenous children attend early childhood services in the Australian context (Sydenham et聽al., 2019). Disadvantaging socioeconomic factors 鈥 child neglect, substance abuse and overcrowding in housing 鈥 may impact some Indigenous families and surveillance in early childhood services may deem Indigenous families and culture at risk (Krakouer & ACER, 2016). Protecting all children is paramount. However, the history and current practice in Australia of removing infants and children from Indigenous families prevails (Sydenham et聽al., 2019), and simultaneously attributes the experience of disadvantage directly to Indigenous communities without questioning systemic socioeconomic structures. Accordingly, some Indigenous communities are fearful of sharing valued cultural lore and leaving infants in early childhood settings (Sydenham et聽al., 2019).

Intertwining infantology and Indigeneity offers possibilities to bring Indigenous Australian ways of knowing infants into view, whilst equalising the terms between Westernised ways in early childhood education and Indigenous ways of knowing. Such reciprocal engagement between Australian early childhood contexts, Indigenous communities and infantologies may mean ways of knowing infants are shared and interwoven in trustful dialogues, influencing practices together.

Infantologies as answerable acts

Bridgette Redder Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand, Aotearoa

Earliest life encounters in relationships with others set in motion the moral life quest of every human being to give and receive value through the process of authoring lives (Bakhtin, 1990). Answerability beckons adults to become more self-aware of the meaning that is being created in their dialogues with infants because of its potential to influence their developing value-oriented self-consciousness. White鈥檚 (2016) contemporary application of answerability in infant experience in early childhood education calls for evaluative acts of moral answerability concerning any response given to infants by the teacher as dialogic partner. These acts call teachers to not only account for their representations of infants, but to lay bare their own subjective orientations (Redder & White, 2017). Taking into account human consciousness from multiple different answerable 鈥業鈥 orientations in tandem with the particularity of context it is possible to understand how people are emotionally connected to others through the answerable act. By engaging with their answerable 鈥業鈥 orientations teachers can better understand how the self looks and feels to their own consciousness, how the self is shaping and shaped by others (Redder, 2019). In consideration of infants there are increased responsibilities to pay attention to the intricacies and complexities of their relationship because of the meanings that infants come to know and feel through encounters with others. These are based on the feelings that arise out of dialogic encounters with infants for which the adult is answerable because of their potential to alter infants鈥 emotional and cognitive interpretations of experiences. Infantology provides an incentive to explore accounts of infants lives as a response to the unique moral particulars of everyday life. Emphasis is placed on time to understand infants as 鈥榦ther鈥 while recognising one鈥檚 own interpretations of meanings as partial, ideologically imbued, and shaping of what can be seen, and how this is represented (White, 2016). There is special significance for professional teachers who work with infants on a day-to-day basis and who now, more than ever before, play a major shaping role in these early lives. Answerability invites teachers to engage not only with a code of professional ethics as a received code of practice by which they should abide; but to wholeheartedly and explicitly engage with their personal moral compass that orients their pedagogical decisions for which they are accountable in the lives of infants.

Pedagogical Frameworks

Infantologies: Entangled pedagogies in affirmative heterotopia

Jennifer Charteris University of New England, Australia

If we are out there and I notice a parent is sitting with a child and the child does something amazing even something just like mouthing an object. It gives me the opportunity to say do you know what your child is doing? She is using her senses to find out about a particular object. She is tasting it, feeling it, banging it, listening to sounds. So that鈥檚 all about brain development. It鈥檚 really exciting. Just passing on, little gems like that to parents is good. (Christy- Teacher in an Early Childhood Centre connected to a Teen Parent Centre)

Clusters of relations shape spaces and in Teen Parent Units infantology is pedagogised and immersed in a 鈥渃omplex web of relations鈥 (Massey, 1994, p. 265). The quote above, drawn from a research project in a Teen Parent Unit (TPU), illustrates the pedagogical value of educating infants in juxtaposed Early Childhood Centres. There are 25 TPUs in Aotearoa New Zealand which provide wraparound support for pregnant or parenting students and their infants. Pedagogies are entangled in TPU, when parents and infants are educated alongside each other. Teen Parent Units are social and pedagogical heterotopias, created as affirmative spaces that are 鈥榦ther鈥 (Foucault & Miskowiec, 1986). They are juxtaposed alongside a host school which the teen parents may or may not enter for additional education. As heterotopic spaces, TPU reframe the deficit discourses that teen parents encounter in their communities.

Deficit discourses circulate around the adequacy of teen parenting, with a moral panic around the sexuality of young mothers and 鈥渁ssumptions, discomforts, fears, fetishizations鈥 surrounding the pregnant teenage body (Pillow, 2015, p. 62). The matrices of race and class are in play, with the gestating infant positioned as a health or social problem (Pillow, 2015). Mothers may be seen as 鈥渦nfit鈥 for parenting, a 鈥渨elfare queen鈥 (Pillow, 2006, p. 62), raising the infant in an environment where the youngster is placed at risk (Cederbaum et聽al., 2020). There is social condemnation emanating from the "vested interest in the economic viability of the teen mother鈥 who has defaulted on conventional education progression to bring up the infant (Pillow, 2004, p. 167).

In many instances teen parents turn to the heterotopic spaces of TPU, because of their child as they want to offer them opportunities afforded through an education. However, it can be feat of organisation to juggle family responsibilities to attend school. As teen mother Cheyenne notes:

I don鈥檛 go to sleep until past 11-12 o鈥檆lock at night before Tony goes down. Like I have only got half an hour鈥檚 sleep before he gets back up again. He鈥檚 there playing. He鈥檚 like one of those energetic babies.

Cheyenne鈥檚 Teen Parent Centre incorporates whanaungatanga (belonging) where parents provide knowledge and understanding of the infants and the early childhood teachers engage in parent and infant education. This reciprocity gels the relationships between infants, mothers, teachers and others who have connections with the Teen Parent Centre.

The mundane and the messy 鈥 rethinking body work in infant care

Kiri Gould University of Auckland, NZ

Holding, manipulating, dressing, washing, feeding, wiping, and rubbing infant bodies are a central part of the unique experience of working with infants. These caring activities are additionally forms of body work - work on the bodies of others (Twigg et聽al., 2011). They characterise the intimate and corporeal daily realities for infant teachers. Such activities can be experienced as mundane, messy and sometimes unwelcome, but can also be a source of pleasure and emotional connection. However, acknowledgement of infant body work is frequently obscured in the sector. The reasons for such omissions are complex, related to ontological perspectives about infants and the complex relations of power that circulate in ECEC (early childhood education and care). The implications emerging from such silences are both pedagogical and political.

Infant care is a deeply gendered activity, fraught with essentialising assumptions about women as the 鈥榥atural鈥 carers of infants, and the supposed effortlessness of doing so. Seeking to recognise the care and emotional labour of teachers as skilled professional work, feminist ethic of care scholars call for the transformation of care in ECEC including a discursive dismantling of the care/education divide, and more careful articulation of the 鈥減olitical, contextual and emotional nuances in caring experiences鈥 (Langford, 2019, p. 9). However, while the emotional and relational aspects of care are frequently elevated in this scholarship (Taggart, 2016) lack of specific attention to the messy and mundane realities of infant body work means it easily becomes disconnected and invisible. Similarly, pedagogical frameworks that focus on the importance of relationships, such as those found in the New Zealand early childhood curriculum Te Wh膩riki, can elide body work altogether (Ministry of Education, 2017). The effect is a hierarchy of care work in ECEC centres, in which care directly related to the body is marginalised.

Infants, both the objects and subjects of body work, are able to demand and resist work on their bodies, but are wholly reliant on others to respond sensitively. There are two points to be made about this situation. The first is that such dependency and vulnerability is treated with hostility in a neoliberal system that celebrates autonomous individualism. In a sector dominated by economic arguments for investments in ECEC, the outcomes of infant body work cannot easily be measured. Therefore, such dependency is likely to be treated as a phase to be moved through as swiftly as possible rather than as an essential aspect of pedagogical work. Further, in early childhood institutions the relationship between the infant being cared for and the adult caring for them is mediated through the organisational arrangements and culture in which the work takes place. As body work is labour intensive, requiring one adult to work with one infant, it can be viewed as an expensive use of qualified teachers. As a result body work is likely to be done by those 鈥渓ower down in the pecking order鈥 further marginalising its status and enforcing hierarchies between teachers; leading to the argument that the status of teachers can be measured by their distance from children鈥檚 bodies.

Rethinking the issue of corporeality in ECEC, requires the conceptualisation of pedagogies and professional identities at are inclusive of the 鈥渁ffective, fulfilling, messy, menial, and repetitive鈥 (Rosen, 2019, p. 87). Doing so opens up dialogue about the nature, value, and status of infant care, including confronting hierarchies of care and how these materialise in the work conditions and status of teachers whose work is unavoidably connected to infants bodies.

Posthumanist pedagogical framework of infantology

Alison Warren Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood, NZ

Taking a posthumanist perspective on pedagogies of infantology opens opportunities to explore understandings of infants and other human subjects as complex interconnected multiplicities rather than autonomous human individuals. Human and other-than-human components are continually produced and producing; affected and affecting, in rhizomatic assemblages as described by Deleuze and Guattari (1987). Framed in this way, pedagogies of infantology encompass dynamic relationalities among human and other-than-human bodies in early childhood environments, language and other communications, theories of curriculum and pedagogy, emotions, and intentions. Pedagogues drawing on these posthumanist concepts may investigate macro- and micro-political forces that enable and constrain pedagogical relations and processes; and seek opportunities within assemblages for creativity and innovation. Cartographic methodologies provide means to map complex multiple relationalities, affective flows, and power relations (for example, Braidotti, 2019).

Infants, their wh膩nau/families, and kaiako/teachers are immanent to early childhood assemblages within posthumanist perspectives. This means that they are immersed, inseparable components entangled in relationalities. Immanence contrasts with transcendence, which is a view that allows observing human individuals (such as teachers) to stand aside from situations and comment on what they see from positions of knowledgeable detachment. Taking a position of immanence as pedagogues leads to pedagogies that are localised, specific, and responsive, rather than generalised 鈥榖est-practice鈥 approaches to teaching and learning with infants. Localised pedagogies of infantology affect and are affected by ideas accumulated within larger early childhood assemblages, such as those that encompass the early childhood teaching profession, teacher education provision, and documents that guide and regulate teaching and curriculum.

Concepts of cartography and becoming shape posthuman pedagogical frameworks of infantology. Braidotti (2019) is influential in conceptualising embodied and embedded posthuman subjectivities situated within power relations. She calls for cartographies that map power within processes and affects producing continuously becoming subjectivities. Sellers (2013) advocates 鈥榬hizomapping鈥 everchanging corporeal and incorporeal flows in early childhood settings as children connect, disconnect, and reconnect with each other and with human and material components in early childhood settings. Children continuously perform and produce curriculum as tangled matted cobweb rather than as neatly woven mat. Kaiako are also entwined in pedagogical matting within power relations under constant negotiation. For example, a cartography of love among kaiako and infant in a specific assemblage might involve a concept of professional love that is similar but different than parental love, alongside experiences of deep emotional attachment, disconcertingly entangled with frustration and anxiety about behaviours in tension with professional expectations of teachers who remain calm with low emotional intensities (Warren, 2020).

The posthuman concept of becoming (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) challenges binaries and hierarchies that structure everyday human assumptions, for example by delineating between helpless vulnerable infant and knowledgeable powerful adult. For Deleuze and Guattari, becoming is not about 鈥榖ecoming-something鈥 that can be categorised, but rather is always in the middle, in-between, in process. Sellers (2013) applies this concept of becoming to early childhood pedagogy, encouraging kaiako to remain open to children continually becoming in their relations with the world. Manning (2020) recommends that kaiako follow children鈥檚 鈥榳ander lines鈥 and explore 鈥榳orld-making鈥 opportunities of becoming-child themselves. For kaiako, becoming-infant could productively involve becoming-attuned to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights, movements; becoming-focused on the here and now; becoming-attentive; and becoming-curious.

Baby brains: Infants and neuroscience

Andrea Delaune University of Canterbury, NZ

Neuroscientific discourses are prominent within any discussion of the education of the infant, concurrently invoking heightened focus and scrutiny upon practices that may negatively affect the infant brain. The image of the infant brain shapes motivations for increasing funding within the critical time period identified as the 鈥榝irst 1000 days鈥, frequently situating early childhood education as the primary location for interventionist practices to maximise brain potential. The brain is frequently (mis)located as the seat of infant development, a place where economic and scientific discourses converge to posit 鈥榠f only we had the right equipment, could reveal the mysteries of human potential鈥 (and most importantly, how teachers could maximise this potential) (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2007). The infant brain is territory sought and claimed by neoliberal forms of governance, in order to determine from neuroscience a means through which future human citizens can be shaped, to limit their expenses upon society and produce an entrepreneurial workforce. The 鈥榯ruth鈥 of neuroscience affects educational policies (Council of Australian Governments, 2009; English, 2015), and is moving into the real world of shaping pedagogical practices (for example the recent inclusion of neuroscientific theory as an underpinning logic for shaping the revised edition of Te Wh膩riki).

The image of the mechanistic computerised brain only requires teachers to determine the right forms of 鈥榠nput鈥 in order to enhance babies鈥 development. Such images of the brain, as computational and mechanistic, are much simpler to understand compared to abstract and 鈥榤essy鈥 mental images. Mechanistic images support technical approaches to education, where 鈥榙oing things right鈥 displace arguments about the right thing to do (Vandenbroeck, 2017). Morality is divorced from scientific certainty, as the 鈥榯ruth鈥 of neuroscience is situated to be objective and beyond reproach.

But this 鈥榦bjectivity鈥 is questionable when the complexity of educational relationships are diminished. The desire to 鈥榚xplain鈥 the infant through neuroscience akin to functioning of an engine, belies the complexities of the infant and the craft of the teacher who responds to the infant, observing the multiple small but subtle cues to shape pedagogical responses. Education is an undertaking which is built from the particulars, small and incremental attentive moments between individuals (Delaune, 2020). The mapping of baby brains cannot map the intricacies of the interconnections between individuals, the ebb and flow of relationships, nor predict what needs to be done next by the teacher in order to maximise the performance of the brain. We seek to clarify things further with the sciences, and with regards to the infant, neuroscience is the principle science. But the equation that is sought misrepresents the unique nature of the infant, and forces unnecessary binaries between mind and body, activity and passivity, teacher and learner, scientist and educator. Infantologies provide a space to specifically reconsider the neuroscientific turn for infants and reconsider the image of the baby brain.

Infants: 'Objects of trade' in educational spaces and places with their 'best' interests at heart

Olivera Kamenerac University of Waikato, NZ

Many countries argue to develop their educational policies and politics with a child's 'best' interest at heart. As it is often the case, educational policies, such as curriculum documents grounded in a child's right, however, do not match with countries' politics viewing education as a private good. The confronting discourses in education, undoubtedly, reveal various ideologies that shape countries' visions for their youngest citizens and their commitment to protecting and fulfilling (or not!) children's rights. Notably, such discourses construct and often impose particular ways of being an infant and seeing (or not) infants in both, educational policies and the world.

New Zealand is one of the countries with a child's 'best' interest at heart; although this intention has been continuously in doubt given the country's educational policies and politics. Unlike Scotland and the Netherlands, New Zealand has never had a separate curriculum framework for infants. However, its Early Childhood Curriculum Te Wh膩riki (2017), claims to be a framework that can "explore infants' rights to high-quality care", including their right "to be, become, enjoy and choose" and "to be taken seriously as active and competent members of society" (Te Kete Ipurangi, n.d., para. 1.). To accomplish such a vision, the curriculum places respectful, reciprocal and responsive relationships between infants and the "adults, who know them well and have their best interests at heart" (Ministry of Education, 2017, p. 7), at the centre of early childhood education and care (ECE).

The ontologies underpinning Te Wh膩riki's sense-making about infants and infant rights have been often challenged and overpowered by discourses driving the country's broader policies and politics. For instance, historical discourses about ECE as 'minding' and 'caring for' young children rather than teaching blurred the visage on infants as social beings in intersubjective interactions with adults (White et聽al., 2015). Furthermore, the growing corporate ethics and politics, driving the county's 'new' organisation of ECE, hindered, even more, the capacity for seeing infants as social partners influencing their worlds with purpose and intention.

Under the country's framework of neoliberal dictatorship, the adults, who have infants' 'best' interest at heart, became 'the subjects of the market discipline' (Apple, 2005); 'business managers' favouring for-profit interests of their 'ECE companies' over the well-being of children, families and communities (Kamenarac, 2019). The 'ordinary cordiality' (i.e. reciprocal, responsive and respectful relationships) between teachers, children and families were translated into a marketing tool for 'attracting' and 'keeping the families into ECE centres' and, thus securing the survival of 'ECE companies' on the market (Kamenarac, 2019). Consequently, teaching and learning outside of the home came down to 'doing early childhood business with babies and their families', rather than 'sitting with a baby'. Such neoliberal ontologies about infants and their early education constructed the baby as 'an object of trade' within the very educational spaces and places that claimed to have their 'best' interests at heart.

To see and relate to infants as 'competent members of society' with 'the right to be, become, enjoy and choose', one needs to critically engage with ontologies underpinning our individual and collective educational spaces and places that cast new normality for infants as 'objects of trade'. This task of critical and intentional exploration needs to begin with the one's own self asking: If any/What kinds of infantologies do inform the ways of being with, seeing and relating (or not!) to infants in educational spaces and places? Who decides? Who benefits? Is it worthwhile, and what is worthwhile about it?

Open Reviews

Exploring the multiple pathways offered by 鈥榠nfantologies鈥

Nina Hood Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Auckland

This collective writing takes it starting point from the newly coined term 鈥榠nfantologies鈥. The contributions are diverse in the ways in which they approach the term, yet across the various pieces of writing common themes emerge and are returned to by various contributors. Sometimes the authors are in agreement with each other while at times they present varying arguments informed by different perspectives and understandings. One can only imagine that if all of the authors were to come together in a room, a fascinating discussion would unfold.

The role of science and neuroscience in the lives of, and scholarship on, infants was a recurring theme, with contributors questioning what this means for how infants are positioned and understood. Most were critical, seeing the dominant discourse in neuroscience research as limiting, deterministic, and in opposition to an ontological positioning of infants as complete beings. However, interesting questions do emerge, reading between the lines of many contributions, regarding how neuroscience may come together with other discourses of infants and what each may offer the other. As Peters hints at in his contribution, the evolving neuroscience research does emphasise the advanced nature of infants (even in utero) as well as the importance of particular pedagogical approaches to care 鈥 whether those be in family settings or in formalised ECE (here Gibbon鈥檚 discussion of the term babysitter is particularly interesting). There are important questions emerging from this collective writing of what neuroscience might offer to and learn from philosophy.

The economy featured prominently in a number of the contributions. For Delaune, Kamenarac, and Gould, the role of dominant neoliberal agendas and discourses was influencing common perspectives of infants as well as shaping pedagogies and structures of education and care. Tesar, examined the specific economy built up around infants and its implications for how society conceptualises infants and their families. For Tesar and Gibbons, the contemporary context of 2020, and in particular the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic was woven into their discussions of conceptualisations and understandings of infants and infantologies, examining how novel situations can both provoke new debates and understandings as well as reinforce existing models and approaches.

Across all of the accounts there was an implicit (and also at times explicit) questioning of what infancy actually means and who gets to determine what an infant can and cannot do. For some contributors 鈥 Arndt, Warren, Rutanen 鈥 interesting questions were asked about the relationships between infants and other materials and spaces, and the contribution that posthuman and new materialist approaches might offer to infantologies. The opportunity for new thinking, new approaches and new areas of emphasis is articulated clearly by Arndt who asks:

Maybe shifting the study of infants and infancy to a focus on infantology is the shift that finally permits a more emphatic focus, through a new consciousness, on elevating minority voices, including Indigenous, refugee and other border crossing groups, Global South and those of cultures othered across the globe?

One can only hope that new and diverse voices are brought into the discussion. We see the beginnings of this in the Browne鈥檚 exploration of infantology and Australian Indigenous ways of knowing and Charteris鈥 discussion of 鈥榳hanaungatanga鈥 in the context of the Teenage Parent Unit.

These contributions offer the reader a range of perspectives, frameworks and approaches as well as multiple pathways forward. What remains to be seen is whether this new term 鈥榠nfantologies鈥 enters mainstream parlance and if it does, how it will be positioned.

Kindred entities

Sean Sturm University of Auckland

Infancy (from infans, Latin, 鈥榰nspeaking鈥) is literally that age at which a human being 鈥 or, by analogy, any other entity that is 鈥榠n its infancy鈥 鈥 has not yet entered the world of speech, the world of the human being as 味峥肺课 位蠈纬慰谓 峒斚囅壩 (zoon logon echon), or animal that has speech (or reason). How human beings treat their infants is something of a touchstone for how they treat all those entities in their ambit who, for whatever reason, cannot speak 鈥 especially when teaching them or trying to understand how they learn. (Because of a quirk of the development of human beings called infantile amnesia, most human beings have no access to their memories of learning as infants, especially of learning to speak, so those seeking to understand it to teach them must confront the so-called 鈥榩roblem of other minds鈥 鈥 or learn to read body language.) Today, how we as human beings and teachers treat infants 鈥 as with others whose voices go unheard in our society such as, for example, the elderly or infirm, and people of colour or those from the Global South, not to mention non-human animals and other entities 鈥 is captured by neoliberalism, as is often remarked in this article. We thus tend to teach infants and understand their learning in ways that are captured by

  • market capitalism, including the privatisation of public goods such as early childhood education (ECE) and childcare;

  • the exploitation of biopower through governmentality (e.g. responsibilisation and/or the optimisation of 鈥榳ell-being鈥) and biologically determinist models of the subject (e.g., cognitivism and/or genetics), which have come to dominate the provision of ECE and our understanding of infancy; and

  • the devaluation of carework and other work predominantly undertaken by women such as ECE.

The most promising responses to the capture of infancy in this article explore infancy as ecological (from the Greek oikos, habitation). They speak to its mode of habitation 鈥 in-habitation, I would say 鈥 as embodied and entangled with other entities: infants are neither 鈥榟elpless鈥 (altricial) nor 鈥榓lways-already capable鈥 (precocial); infancy is neither an interval of 鈥榝reedom and beauty鈥 (larval) nor a phase of 鈥榤iniature adult[hood]鈥 (neotenic). To say that the infant in-habits its world does not mean that other entities, say, adult human beings, do not, but that it speaks with its body and in the language of the entities with which it cohabits 鈥 while the adult privileges those entities with which it can speak. In short, the infant welcomes the world and, as Kim Browne suggests Indigenous peoples do with their extended families, welcomes it as kin. (Of course, the paradox is that the infant is least capable 鈥 at least in adult human terms 鈥 at this point in their lifespan of manipulating entities in their environment and most prey to being manipulated by other entities.) This is despite the fact that, as a human being, it is, for example, predisposed to human faces or ill-disposed to bitter-tasting objects. An infant thus interacts with a toy as a kindred entity, with which it co-exists and is more or less coterminous, rather than seeing it as a foreign object that exists at a distance. It is as likely to ingest it as address it. So how does the article suggest that we document such intimate interactions? Although I can鈥檛 see infancy as amenable to 鈥榤apping鈥 (Manning, 2020) in any literal sense (because infants are preambulatory), I would agree that we can emulate its lignes d鈥檈rre (鈥榣ines of drift鈥 [Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, after Deligny, 2015]), the ways in which it nonetheless moves in the world 鈥 inhabits the world 鈥 through habits and interactions with kindred entities (viz., what Piaget, [1954] calls reflexes and circular reactions). We have much to learn from such inhabitation.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).


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