Problematizing the photographic images of pedagogical documentation: A Foucauldian Analysis
Photographic practices and the images they generate play a dominant role in documenting and assessing children’s learning and development in the early childhood education environments of Aotearoa-New Zealand. In the context of pedagogical documentation these visual practices are predominantly enacted through the medium of digital photography, utilized both locally (through assessment documentation) and nationally (through various policy documents). My concerns are in regards to the normalizing and regulatory effects of such visual practices, and how the photographic image is implicated in the construction of particular subjectivities in diverse populations of young children. The revised Aotearoa-New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki (2017a) is the first iteration of the national document to include photographic images and thus presents a timely opportunity to engage with questions concerning this contemporary visual politic. By means of addressing these concerns I work within a post-structural epistemological framework, drawing methodological insights from the philosophy of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze/Félix Guattari. This Rhizomatic epistemology, inspired by both Deleuzio-Guattarian and Foucauldian scholarship, is an experimental mode of inquiry that acts to illuminate, resist and transgress dominant discursive constructs and the subjectivities they produce. Each chapter of this thesis takes the diffuse realm of photographic practices and processes of subjectivity in the context of education as their impetus, making linkages between texts, concepts and the child subject. This thesis suggests that an entanglement of both neoliberal and ‘psy’ rationalities are constitutive of particular visual-discursive practices, which mutually serve individualizing ends and construct particular subjectivities at this point in history. These predominant discourses and the subjectivities they are productive of are perceived to be problematic on the grounds that they place burdensome levels of responsibility on the young citizen and act to erode other educational values such as collective responsibility and community. It is further suggested that these predominant discourses are problematic in the sense that they act to foreclose other ways of thinking and being in educational settings to the effect of limiting other possible subject-positions (thought or unthought) that both child and teacher might come to inhabit within these spaces.