A Decolonial, Intersectional Approach to Disrupting Whiteness, Neoliberalism, and Patriarchy in Western Early Childhood Education and Care

  • Alana Butler
  • Cathryn TeasleyEmail author
  • Concepción Sánchez-Blanco
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


We present a critique of early childhood education and care (ECEC) as a contested site of cultural transmission and social reproduction in Western nation-states, but also as one that can become a potentially powerful space of resistance and change. We examine how language and other symbolic systems shape social hierarchies of power within and beyond ECEC contexts and how children from infancy to the early years of schooling are exposed to various forms of oppression caused by racist, ethnocentric, neoliberal, patriarchal, heteronormative, and neocolonial dynamics. These persistent cultural forces converge on malleable young minds, perpetuating not only White privilege but other injustices sustained by predatory capitalist cultural strategies, which emphasize conformity, competition, and consumerism over other ontological and axiological orientations, and are encoded through cultures of play, pedagogical practice, and interpersonal/intergroup relations in ECEC. We focus more specifically on how color-blind racism (Bonilla-Silva, Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in the United States. Rowand and Littlefield, Landham, 2013) within ECEC is undergirded by a Western-centric, capitalist, and patriarchal world-system (Wallerstein, Piel negra, máscaras blancas. Akal, Madrid, 2009), while we reject the discourses that situate ECEC as a neutral, color-blind space. Our discussion is further framed through intersectional (Collins and Bilge, Intersectionality. Polity Press, Cambridge, 2016), decolonial (Mohanty, Feminism without borders: Decolonizing theory, practicing solidarity. Duke University Press, Durham, 2003; Orelus, Whitecentricism and linguoracism exposed: Towards the de-centering of whiteness and decolonization of schools. Peter Lang, New York, 2013), counter-hegemonic (Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed. The Seabury Press, New York, 1970; Moss, Transformative change and real utopias in early childhood education: A story of democracy, experimentation and potentiality. Routledge, New York, 2014), and cross-cultural inquiry into culturally sustainable (Ladson-Billings, Harvard Educational Review 84:74–84, 2014) child-centered pedagogy (Sánchez-Blanco, Fuego, meteoritos y elefantes: Cruzando fronteras en educación infantil. Miño y Dávila, Buenos Aires, 2018). We seek to understand how racial and other sociocultural hierarchies colonize children’s spatialities, temporalities, potentialities, and overall well-being, and we conclude by proposing strategies to foster resistance and rupture the systems of hegemonic power and dominator culture within ECEC.


Early childhood education White-privilege racism Neoliberal capitalism Intersectionality Decolonial analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alana Butler
    • 1
  • Cathryn Teasley
    • 2
    Email author
  • Concepción Sánchez-Blanco
    • 2
  1. 1.Queen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.University of A CoruñaA CoruñaSpain

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