Deconstructing Discourses to Rupture Fairytales of the “Ideal” Childhood

  • Kylie Smith
Reference work entry


Discourses of childhood represent a wide range of ideas about who children are and can be, as well as how they should and could live their lives. Contemporary discourses of childhood privilege understandings of the innocent and/or the developing child. These discourses create singular understandings and representations, fairytales of what an “ideal” childhood should and can be. This chapter shows how rhizoanalysis can be used to deconstruct how we think about childhood and present alternative modes of thought – and therefore possibilities for children to operate within and perform multiple childhoods.

The aim of this chapter is to contest forms of domination within understandings of childhood to create respect for diverse cultural childhoods. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) concept of rhizoanalysis, this chapter will map current discourses of childhood and trace poststructural and postcolonial theories over this mapping. In doing this the aim is to create ruptures and “new lines of flight” to make visible other fairer identity discourses for children and childhood. Rhizomes are about mapping new or unknown lines and entry points, not tracing old lines or patterns (Alvermann 2000; Deleuze and Guattari 1987). Deleuze and Guattari (1987) argue that when mapping, there is no starting point or ending rather they discuss middles. To begin to examine this mapping and the complexity, a tracing is placed over the top so that deviations, breaks, or ruptures can be identified and what the effects of these are can be examined within the text (Alvermann 2000; Deleuze and Guattari 1987). Poststructural and postcolonial theories are used to create these ruptures because they recognize childhood as historically, politically, and socially constructed. It is argued that within these epistemological readings, childhood is multiple, shifting, contingent, contradictory, and strategic. Poststructural and postcolonial theories also engage with how power operates within and through discourses to silence and marginalize the “other.”


Multiple Reality Dominant Discourse National Preservation Future Citizen Kindergarten Classroom 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Youth Research CentreThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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