19 SES 02 A, SPACE: Mapping, Inclusion and Interactions
In Danish political discourse, social housing areas – also labelled migrant ‘ghettos’ – are currently strongly problematized, sometimes referred to as ‘holes in the national map of Denmark’ and described as fostering ‘parallel’ societies where gang cultures thrive and people live lives profoundly disengaged from the larger national community (cf. Johansen and Jensen 2017; Jensen 2016). Everyday life in these social housing areas is associated with a wide range of social problems and lack of integration due to criminality, gang conflicts, unemployment, the radicalization of members of Muslim communities, and a continued lack of social mobility among children from ethnic minority families. It is estimated that almost 40% of children and young people who grow up in these particular places are at risk of not faring well in the long term (CFBU 2015). The early institutionalization of children into day care institution, which constitute a public space for intervention by the welfare state (Møller and Harrits 2013; Johansen 2017, cf. Bregnbæk et al. 2017) and the development of new pedagogical tools to identify vulnerable children at an early age (cf. Houmøller forthcoming) are common political solutions to these problems. Hence, early childhood institutions, which care for children from the ages of 0 to 6, come to feature as key sites in the state’s efforts to work with matters of integration and in strengthening the future wellbeing, development and active citizenship of potentially vulnerable children. It is a development that calls for an understanding of the spatialized forms these interventions take and how professional practices within the day care institution can be seen as not only pedagogical work but essentially as “welfare work” oriented towards securing the positive development and future of the nation-state (Johansen 2017: 8). Underlying the state’s focus on the ‘ghetto’ as an unambiguously problematic place as opposed to the day care institution as a key site for working with matters of children’s social mobility, appears to be an idea of places as circumscribed sites, cut off from their surroundings. “We must take the children out of the ghetto and into a Danish environment”, said the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen earlier this year. As pointed out by previous qualitative research on vulnerable children and early childhood institutions in a Danish context, however, there is no straightforward boundary between the day care institution and its particular surroundings. Rather, the specific locality appears to significantly shape the pedagogical work (Petersen 2015) and the educational efforts taking place often reinforce rather than challenge the reproduction of social inequalities (e.g. Olsen 2009; Palludan 2007).
Inspired by phenomenology (Desjarlais and Throop 2011; Jackson 1996) and theoretical approaches to place as ‘open’ and composed of entanglements of human socialities, material objects, buildings and so on (Ingold 2008; Pink 2011; Casey 2001), the presentation will explore the blurring of boundaries between day care institutions and social housing areas. It will address the following questions: How are boundaries between daycare institutions and the local community in social housing areas established, maintained and transgressed? Which “borderlands” (Mattingly 2010) emerge on the margins of state discourse and activities, and how are these spaces lived, sensed and negotiated intersubjectively through relationships between different actors, and between people and material objects (Mason 2017; Pink 2011? And, relevant to the overall theme of the conference, how do these processes contribute to patterns of inclusion and exclusion?
The presentation draws on empirical material generated through ongoing ethnographic fieldwork (Hammersley & Atkinson 1995) in and around different public day care institutions in the Eastern part of Denmark, mainly caring for children from ethnic minority families who are perceived to be socially vulnerable and potentially at risk of being socially excluded from mainstream society. The fieldwork is part of three different research projects carried out under the auspices of University College UCC in Copenhagen: Two research projects under completion have focused on refugee children and on matters of children’s wellbeing in the context of early childhood institutions in social housing areas. A new study, currently in its early stages and building on key insights from these former projects, will explore preventive, educational early childhood initiatives in social housing areas, with a particular focus on emerging “borderlands” (Mattingly 2010) between day care institutions, families and the local community as they unfold over time. The methods employed in the three research projects include participant observation in the everyday local world of early childhood institutions (observation of and participation in various activities, unstructured interviews, sound recordings, and photos), home visits in key families, and in-depth qualitative interviews with educational staff, parents, educational and municipal management as well as social housing organizations. Our approach is inspired by critical phenomenology and existential anthropology and we thus follow our interlocutors across time and space, being mindful of the ways in which people change with their changing environment (Jackson 1996; Ingold 2011). Through an experience-near approach and with a focus on the exploration of practices across day care institutions and social housing areas, we are interested in the dialectical relationship between people and place, and how places and practices are constituted through the movement of bodies, smells, objects, sounds etc.
The research will generate experience-near and nuanced accounts of the explicit as well as tacit ways in which the pedagogical practices within the day care institution are situated in particular places and shape processes of inclusion and exclusion. Preliminary findings from the ongoing research projects suggest that while pedagogues aspire to involve parents in collaborations to ensure the well-being and positive development of children, they simultaneously seek to establish boundaries between children’s lives inside and outside the institution and hereby aim to create an educational space cut off from the surrounding locality. These ambiguous practices, we suggest, may reflect an intrinsic worry that the values believed by pedagogues to belong to the social housing area – as a particular problematic place – will seep into the day care institution and obstruct the everyday welfare- and integration work. In the process, particular family lives, experiences, forms of play or ways of talking are excluded and characterized as out of place. Through a focus on the blurring of boundaries, the presentation inscribes itself within larger debates around the role of the Danish day care institution in working with matters of integration and social mobility, and aim to shed light on larger societal questions related to early childhood policies in Denmark and to the specialization of processes of inclusion and exclusion more broadly.
Bregnbæk, S., Arent, A., Martiny-Bruun, A., & Jørgensen, N. J. (2017). Statens eller familiens børn? Tvang og omsorg i mødet mellem nytilkomne familier og danske daginstitutioner. Forskning i Pædagogers Profession og Uddannelse, Vol. 1, Nr. 2: 54-67 Casey, E. S. (2001). Between Geography and Philosophy: What Does It Mean to Be in the Place-World? Annals of the Association of American Geographers 91(4): 683-693. Center for Boligsocial Udvikling (2015). Fokus på sårbare familier i udsatte boligområder. En kortlægning af problemstillinger og indsatser. Desjarlais, R. & Throop, J. (2011). Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology. The Annual Review of Anthropology, 40: 87-102. Hammersley, M. and P. Atkinson 1995. Ethnography. Principles in practice. London and New York: Routledge. Houmøller, K. (forthcoming). The (in)visibility of children’s well-being: everyday lived experiences of assessing and categorizing well-being within the Danish kindergarten. Ingold, T. (2008). Bindings against boundaries: entanglements of life in an open world. Environment and Planning, A (40): 1796-1810. Ingold, T. (2011). Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. London: Routledge. Jackson, M. (1996). Introduction. Phenomenology, Radical Empiricism, and Anthropological Critique. In: M. Jackson (ed.). Things as They Are. New Directions in Phenomenological Anthropology. Indiana University Press. Jensen, T. G. (2016). Sameksistens. Hverdagsliv og naboskab i et multietnisk boligområde. Roskilde Universitetsforlag. Johansen, M.-L. E. (2017). Velfærdsstaten set fra udsatte flygtningeforældres perspektiv: "Tillid" som markør for social inklusion. Dansk Pædagogisk Tidsskrift, 3. Johansen, M.-L. E., & Jensen, S. B. (2017). “They want us out”: Urban regeneration and the limits of integration in the Danish welfare state. Critique of Anthropology, 37(3), 297–316. Mason, J. (2017). Affinities. Potent Connections in Personal Life. Polity Press. Mattingly, C. (2010). The Paradox of Hope. Journeys through a Clinical Borderland. University of California Press. Møller, M. Ø. & Harrits, G. S. (2013). Constructing at-risk target groups. Critical Policy Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2: 155-176. Olsen, B. (2009). Når pædagogikken bringer mennesker sammen : en eksperimentel rejse gennem byens sociale geografi og alle dens børnehaver. Via Systime. Palludan, C. (2007). Two tones: The core of inequality in kindergarten? International Journal of Early Childhood, 39(1), 75–91. Petersen, K. E. (2015). Working with Socially Vulnerable Children in Day-Care Institutions – What Works?. International Journal of Technology and Inclusive Education, Vol. 4, Issue 2. Pink, S. (2011). From embodiment to emplacement: re-thinking competing bodies, senses and spatialities. Sport, Education and Society, 16, 3: 343-355.
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