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Presentation Title: Becoming and performing gender in a Peruvian indigenous kindergarten
Presenters: Mervi Hakoniemi

Abstract: My research is on gender-differentiated early childhood education and care (ECEC) in an indigenous kindergarten in the urban area of Lima, amidst a pronounced process of urbanization which places the indigenous communities under a new social circumstance with new dynamics, challenges and social norms. The research will produce valuable information on a scarcely studied topic of becoming and performing gender amongst indigenous children and the negotiations of this process between the ECEC services, the children themselves, the families and the surrounding space and materiality, and will thus help in designing and implementing more culturally relevant and equitable ECEC services and in preventing the reproduction of gendered stereotypes and inequalities in the Peruvian society. In my research I am focusing on 1) Gender under post-coloniality 2) What is the role of materiality in becoming and performing gender? 3) Embodied gender. My theoretical framework is on post-colonialist feminism, which is attentive to the inequality and hierarchies built by colonial powers. In the Peruvian society the indigenous groups still feel the economic and social legacies of colonization and especially so in terms of (in)equality. Gender inequality is strongly pronounced, and even when gender sensitive education has lately been lifted on the government agenda there are fierce protests by the conservative groups against the supposed “gender ideology” in the recently approved Peruvian National Curriculum for Basic Education. I have collected data for the past six months using ethnographic method and taking participatory position in everyday life and activities of two kindergarten classrooms of 3 and 5-year-old Shipibo children. I explore gender relations as they are negotiated in the preschool setting and use this as a prism to understand more about gender relations in Shipibo community. I argue that the research can so reach a truer understanding of the culture-bound gendered and gendering childcare practices and the roles that children take or the negotiations they go through in their own gender development under the norms of heterosexuality. In this presentation, I will give a preliminary outline of children’s becoming and performing gender in the indigenous kindergarten; of how femininity and masculinity are imposed upon bodies and how the identities are shaped through materiality. I aim to draw a picture of how children see each other, or themselves, as gendered beings, and how gender is reflected in the materiality, materialized and interacts with it.

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