Young children’s participation as a living practice: The role of material and emotional relations during the transition to primary school
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Blaisdell, C. & Bolger, T. (2020) Young children’s participation as a living practice: The role of material and emotional relations during the transition to primary school. In: Alasuutari, M., Mustola, M. & Rutanen, N. (eds.) Exploring Materiality in Childhood: Body, Relations and Space. London: Routledge.
Children’s participation rights have been a core theme of childhood studies in research, policy and practice. However, despite thirty years since the UNCRC, meaningful participation for children remains patchy and subject to persistent challenges in implementation. Taking an optimistic view, this chapter traces how young children’s participation rights were lived and experienced during one encounter from a larger ethnographic research project in Scotland. The authors reflect on a visit with nursery children to their future primary school. The chapter makes three key arguments. First, emotional and material relations are constitutive elements of social life that produce how participation rights are lived and experienced by different people in the same situation. Second, material and emotional relations are themselves mediated by temporality, interwoven spatial contexts and memory – among other considerations. Finally, the chapter joins the wider literature challenging an ‘implemented or not’ model of rights, and the tendency to default to simplistic narratives about participation rights in practice.