'Racing' and 'classing' gender and sexuality research in early childhood


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Mentioning young children and sex or sexuality in the same breath provokes anxiety and controversy amongst adults. This fear or moral panic is based on several assumptions about the nature of childhood, childhood innocence, and the role of adults. However, what happens when this discourse of childhood innocence is challenged, not only by children’s talk and understandings of gender and sexuality, but by ‘race’ and class? In particular, in what ways does (e)‘racing’ and (un)classing gender and sexuality problematize the sexualisation of young children as it incites anxiety, fear, and excitement in the field of early childhood? This paper aims to explore such questions by revisiting an exploratory study I conducted with 3 and 4 year-old children about their understandings of gender and sexuality (Blaise, 2010). I intend to locate and map the assumptions and silences that were made about ‘race’ and class in the research design and methods I created and used, and by the participants (children, parents, and the teacher) in the study. MacNaughton and Davis use the term ‘racing’ (2009, p. 2), to capture the complex processes that form young children’s feelings, desires, understandings and enactments of ‘race’ in their daily lives. This paper expands and develops this concept further to explore how (e)’racing’ and (un)classing are strategies through which whiteness and middle-class ideals of gender and sexuality were deployed throughout this study. Initial findings illuminate how these strategies (re)produce whiteness and middle-class sexuality as desirable, normal, and unthreatening. These strategies will first be located within the research design, while conducting research as an active participant, and in the findings. Then these strategies will be mapped by using Deleuze & Guattari’s ([1984], 2004) concept of assemblages of desire for problematizing these (e)’racing’ and (un)classing strategies and for imagining new ways for ‘racing’ and classing gender and sexuality research so that the politics of childhood sexuality can be used to engage with and disrupt assumptions made about the sexualisation of young children.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Blaise, M. (2011, April). 'Racing' and 'classing' gender and sexuality research in early childhood. Paper presented at the 8th International Gender and Education Association Conference, Exeter, UK.


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