Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Samara Madrid Akpovo

Committee Members

Ashlee Anderson, Robyn Brookshire, Mary Jane Moran


In the neoliberal context of the Global North, early care and education (ECE) is a conceptually dichotomized and stratified field, with ‘care’ widely considered to be separate from - and lesser than - ‘education.’ Feminist perspectives challenge this dichotomization by reconceptualizing care as foundational to education, centering the historically feminized ideals of emotion, relationality, and interdependence. This three-part qualitative dissertation presents the findings of an 8-month feminist ethnography of care practices in one infant/toddler classroom. Participant observation and semi-structured teacher interviews were used to explore the following research questions: 1) What are teachers’ lived experiences of care in this early childhood classroom community? and 2) How do teachers understand these lived experiences of care? Thematic analysis of ethnographic data (i.e., field notes, video, photos, and interviews) produced two empirical manuscripts. The first leverages a feminist interpretation of Slow Pedagogy (Clark, 2022) to explore how slowness - a quality antithetical to the accelerated pace of neoliberal education - is central to care, as the classroom teachers understand it. The second links Ethics of Care theory with Chantal Mouffe’s (2005) political theory of the Democratic Paradox to explore how care and conflict are linked to participatory democratic practices in this infant/toddler classroom. The final manuscript is an empirical methodological paper based in autoethnographic reflections which explores the importance of slowness and emotion in early childhood research.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."