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RREXXX10.3102/0091732X16688621Review of Research in EducationPerez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC
Chapter 1
A Call for Onto-Epistemological Diversity in Early
Childhood Education and Care: Centering Global
South Conceptualizations of Childhood/s
Michelle Salazar Pérez
New Mexico State University
Cinthya M. Saavedra
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
In this chapter, we call for onto-epistemological diversity in the field of early childhood
education and care (ECEC). Specifically, we discuss the need to center the brilliance of
children and communities of color, which we argue, can be facilitated by foregrounding
global south perspectives, such as Black and Chicana feminisms. Mainstream perspectives
in ECEC, however, have been dominantly constructed from global north perspectives,
producing a normalized White, male, middle-class, heterosexual version of childhood,
where minoritized children are viewed as deficit. Although there have been important
challenges to the discourse of a normalized, deficit child, we argue much of this work has
remained grounded in global north positionings, which separate theory from the lived
realities of children of color. As such, we introduce Black and Chicana feminisms as global
south visions to transform approaches to research and pedagogy in ECEC and, in turn,
disrupt inequities.
he brilliance of children of color is rarely positioned as a starting point for discussion in early childhood studies.1 Even when research and pedagogy involve working with historically marginalized youth, it seems the conversation typically begins with
matters of intervention. A prime example is the Head Start program, created to stop the
“cycle of poverty” through deficit assumptions about economically underresourced
Review of Research in Education
March 2017, Vol. 41, pp. 1­–29
DOI: 10.3102/0091732X16688621
© 2017 AERA.
2 Review of Research in Education, 41
children and families without recognition of larger systemic injustices that produce
poverty (Ellsworth & Ames, 1998). What if we, instead, centered the extraordinary and
necessary contributions of marginalized children to society? What possibilities to disrupt and transform inequities in early childhood and beyond can occur?
The Global South/North
To make sense of the profound inequities that exist for children at promise
(Swadener & Lubeck, 1995) in the United States and globally, we situate our current
social and political context within the global south/north divide. Global north ontoepistemologies are ways of knowing grounded in Eurocentric modernity (Grosfoguel,
2008) that influence the world over through cultural and intellectual colonization.
Global south onto-epistemologies decolonize and disrupt global north dominance by
centering the lived ways of knowing and being of minoritized peoples. Examples of
global south, theories in the flesh (Moraga & Anzaldúa, 1983) include Chicana feminism (Anzaldúa, 1987; Saldivar-Hull, 2000), Black feminism (Collins, 2008; hooks,
2000), and Indigenous knowledges (Meyer, 2008), to name only a few. Global south
onto-epistemologies have great promise to transform early childhood education and
care (ECEC), and therefore, we situate our discussion in these positionings.
We note that while using the dichotomous nomenclature of the global south/
north, we problematize geographic and political boundaries of “south” and “north” to
describe the complex and dynamic social, gendered, and economic inequities that
persist within many local spaces—even within the global south—and that persist on
a worldwide scale (Arrighi, 2001). E. Pérez (1999) reminds us that when colonialism
becomes enmeshed with once indigenous ways of being, it can produce a mestiza
consciousness (Anzaldúa, 1987) and, at times, a sustained colonial consciousness of
global south peoples. These contradictions and complexities must be accounted for
when examining the historical construction of childhoods and early childhood as a
field, along with acknowledgement and problematization of the very privileged position Cinthya and I assume as academics living in and drawing from the colonized
land of the United States.
Global South Perspectives in Early Childhood
In ECEC, global south onto-epistemologies assume that we must definitively “go
beyond the view of culture as a ‘problem’” (González, 2005, p. 40). When early childhood is theorized from a global south perspective, multilingual children are lauded
for the complex ways in which they are able to navigate monolingual, “standard”
English-centric educational spaces and for the powerful contributions they make to
their communities and families as cultural brokers (Saavedra, 2011a). As Delpit and
Dowdy (2002) contend, it is not “children’s language that causes educational problems, but the educational bureaucracy’s response to the language” (p. xxi).
Global south onto-epistemologies give promise for research and pedagogy
informed by marginalized ways of knowing that deviate from postpositivist
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 3
worldviews. For early childhood, centering global south standpoints means no longer
relying on observational tools to classify and measure children against universal (e.g.,
colonizing, racist, sexist, heteronormative, ableist) standards. Multilingual children
of color are inherently and continuously affirmed for their situated knowledge.
Afrocentric and indigenous approaches to curriculum and pedagogy are an expectation of programs serving children of color (Delpit, 2006; Delpit & White-Bradley,
2003; Lomawaima & McCarty, 2002; Rau & Ritchie, 2011; Skerrett, 2015).
Moreover, the early childhood workforce diversifies, with teachers having critical,
global south orientations and coming from the communities they serve. To enable
these imperative shifts and bring about equity in ECEC, we make an urgent call for
recentering global south perspectives.
Because onto-epistemologies are inherent to our discussion on equity in ECEC,
we provide the definitions that have guided our thinking. Epistemology refers to what
can be known, and the relationship between the knower and the known (Guba &
Lincoln, 2005; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Ladson-Billings (2000) cautions, however,
that “epistemology is more than a ‘way of knowing’” (p. 257); rather it encompasses
a “system of knowing” that has historically privileged Euro-American perspectives as
if they are “the only legitimate way to view the world” (p. 258). This epistemological
dominance has had devastating consequences for marginalized children both in their
educational experiences and everyday encounters with the world (Cannella & Viruru,
2004; L. T. Smith, 1999). In a call to acknowledge, recenter, and make visible marginalized epistemologies, such as those that stem from Chicana feminism, Delgado
Bernal (1998) posits that “employing a Chicana feminist epistemology in educational
research thus becomes a means to resist epistemological racism (Schuerich & Young,
1997) and to recover untold stories” (p. 556). For early childhood, the use of marginalized epistemologies prompts us to question which knowledge systems have historically (and dominantly) informed the field and inspires us to rethink our approaches
to research and praxis.
A term closely related to epistemology is ontology, which refers to beliefs about
reality, existence, and notions of truth and being (Guba & Lincoln, 2005; Lincoln &
Guba, 1985; St. Pierre, 2016). One’s ontology informs assumptions about her or his
paradigmatic positioning—for example, if a researcher is positivist, she believes there
is one reality that can be found, while a researcher who is postmodernist challenges
the notion of reality, truth, and universals (Guba & Lincoln, 2005; Lincoln & Guba,
1985). Many argue that ontology and epistemology are inextricably linked (Kincheloe
& McLaren, 2005; Lincoln & Guba, 1989; S. Smith, 1996). Dixon and Jones (1998)
explain, “Any ontology is itself grounded in an epistemology about how we know
‘what the world is like’ ” (p. 250). As such, in this text, we have chosen to merge the
terms as onto-epistemology to emphasize their symbiotic relationship. We note that we
do not intend for our use of onto-epistemology to draw from Barad’s (2007) ideas on
quantized diffraction.
4 Review of Research in Education, 41
Method For Reviewing The Early Childhood
Scholarship: A Global South Approach
As authors of this call for onto-epistemological diversity in ECEC, we have petitioned for some time to recenter global south perspectives, mainly through the use of
Chicana and Black feminisms (Demas & Saavedra, 2004; M. S. Pérez 2014, 2017;
M. S. Pérez, Medellin, & Rideaux, 2016; M. S. Pérez, Ruiz Guerrero, & Mora, 2016;
M. S. Pérez & Saavedra, 2014; M. S. Pérez & Williams, 2014; Saavedra, 2011a,
2011b; Saavedra & Nymark, 2008; Saavedra & M. S. Pérez, 2012). In our efforts to
reframe the field through global south perspectives, we have brought attention to and
critiqued the lack of people of color, and in particular, women of color, who have
theoretically informed both critical and mainstream scholarship (M. S. Pérez &
Saavedra, 2015), with the latter having much less representation. Problematizing the
absence of onto-epistemological diversity in ECEC has therefore informed our process to reviewing the literature.
We begin with a discussion on scholarship that foregrounds the brilliance of children of color. By valuing and building on their rich cultural experiences and knowledges, both pedagogy and research in ECEC can be transformed (Souto-Manning,
2013). Next, we review mainstream early childhood scholarship grounded in global
north onto-epistemologies that have dominated, regulated, and managed the field.
We then discuss the critically oriented research that has made important challenges
to dominant constructions of early childhood, while problematizing how it often
remains situated in global north perspectives. Last, we examine Black and Chicana
feminist, global south literature that alerts us to the need for onto-epistemological
diversity, inspiring new imaginaries and possibilities for equity in ECEC.
Our approach to reviewing scholarship provides possibilities not only to diversify
perspectives on children and communities of color but also to disrupt deficit assumptions embedded in much of the literature in the field. Ultimately, it is our hope that
centering global south onto-epistemologies can provide a refreshed and empowered
view of children of color, giving promise for greater equity.
The Brilliance Of Children Of Color
Scholars have examined and offered tangible examples of the brilliance and success of minoritized children in the public school system and early years contexts. The
works of Carter and Kumasi (2011), Delpit (2006, 2012), Ladson-Billings (1994),
González, Moll, and Amanti (2005), Gutierrez, Bien, Selland, and Pierce (2011), and
Orellana (2001) discuss approaches and methodologies that demonstrates how, when
we center children’s cultures and epistemologies, and ways with words (Brice-Heath,
1983), education becomes meaningful—but more important, they demonstrate that
there is no achievement or developmental gap between White children and what has
been constructed as the Other (Delpit, 2012). In fact, even research grounded in
developmental psychology shows that children of color have demonstrated their success in developmental markers (Delpit, 2012). Thus, in early childhood, the
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 5
supposed “gap” is nonexistent. Yet the focus on early literacy and readiness skills, for
example, seems to project a different image of minoritized children, one where they
are positioned as ‘less than’ beginning as early as birth (Delpit, 2012) and in some
instances prenatally (Kaomea, 2005). These colonizing and deficit worldviews completely ignore the social and political context in which the notion of a gap has been
constructed. That is, the gap exists only when education is seen and enacted from
three perspectives: one rooted in colonization—the epistemological global north
belief in the inherent (genetic) deficiency and inferiority of people of color from the
global south (Gould, 1981; L. T. Smith, 1999) or who have global south positionings
within the global north (Trinidad Galván, 2014), the superiority and standardization
of global north knowledge, and finally, the corporatization of education through
sweeping reforms, neoliberal public policy, and accountability systems (M. S. Pérez
& Cannella, 2011; Ross & Gibson, 2007). For years, multicultural educators (Banks
& Banks, 2004; Grant & Sleeter, 1990; Nieto, 1996; Spring, 2010) have problematized the separation of sociocultural, historical, and political factors from meaningful
education (McCarty, 2002; Souto-Manning, 2013). Indeed, educational transformations are possible and real when we use a “comprehensive perspective” (Nieto, 2010,
p. 34) to educate children. That is, we must address the sociohistorical and political
context of education and care when considering the education of young children.
With the growing number of White teachers in the field and the rising number of
children of color who speak a Native language other than English (Boser, 2014), it is
imperative that we seriously address the notion of an achievement “gap” in early
childhood teaching and research. In both, we must center the imaginative and intellectual world of minoritized children and communities (Delpit, 2012). We can no
longer afford to allow global north research and perspectives to be the only decree on
what is good, what works pedagogically, and what counts in education (Marx &
Saavedra, 2014). As such, we propose to center scholarship that empowers educators
to use different theoretical, onto-epistemological, and philosophical approaches.
Research much start with the premise that all children are brilliant and have skills and
knowledges worthy of incorporating, if not centering, in early childhood.
Situating Minoritized Childhoods: A History Of Global
North Perspectives In Early Education And Care
Like other facets of social life in the United States and globally, early childhood is
dominated by onto-epistemologies from the global north (Fleer, Hedegaard, &
Tudge, 2008; Nsamenang, 1999). Historically, White, mainly European, men (e.g.,
Piaget, Vygotsky, Rousseau, etc.) have informed how children have been constructed,
governing how we engage with young children pedagogically and approach our work
with families and communities. Especially concerning is how global north perspectives have privileged—and measured children with marginalized positionalities
against—White, middle-/upper-class culture, while functioning as an apparatus to
advance capitalist agendas (Burman, 2008).
6 Review of Research in Education, 41
Global north influences on early childhood can be traced through centuries of
ways in which “childhood” has been discursively constructed (Burman, 1994, 2008).
Since Western enlightenment, children have been categorized, individualized, othered, viewed as separate from/less than adults, and stripped of interconnections to the
land/earth. As a result, children have had to navigate and create spaces of resistance
within social and institutional power hierarchies. These hierarchies have been produced and maintained by adults, who continue to subject young children to “scientific” observation, constant surveillance, and intervention at every stage of their
“development” (Cannella, 1997). Even more susceptible to adult interventions are
children of color and those who speak a language or embody a gender identity different from the constructed standard (e.g., middle class, White, monolingual, heterosexual, able-bodied, etc.). The image of a normalized child has been legitimized and
is becoming more widespread through global north onto-epistemologies, permeating
every aspect of ECEC.
In the United States and more increasingly as a worldwide phenomenon, global
north perspectives have produced vast inequities for those with Othered positionalities through (1) overreliance on developmental psychology and developmentally
appropriate practice (DAP; Copple & Bredekamp, 2009), (2) narrowly defined and
regulatory “quality” measures (M. S. Pérez & Cahill, 2015), and (3) implementation
of postpositivist, culturally biased instructional and observational instruments
(Dahlberg, Moss, & Pence, 2007; Lopez, 1997). To understand why such inequities
exist among childhoods, and to find ways in which to challenge and transform these
circumstances, we trace and examine the scholarship that has informed the field
Developmentally Appropriate Practice
Although heavily contested (Bloch, 1992; Burman, 1994; Cannella, 1997), the
National Association for the Education of Young Children’s DAP (Bredekamp, 1987;
Bredekamp & Copple, 1997) remains a pillar of ECEC. The articulation of DAP has
had major implications for what counts as “appropriate” in early years settings and in
turn driven accreditation standards, public policy, and dominant approaches to
childhood research (Dickinson, 2002). With its far-reaching influence, DAP has
informed early learning guidelines and outcomes developed by states across the
United States, which are tied to teacher performance, child assessment, curriculum,
and the structure of classroom environments. As such, in any particular program,
there lies concern for whether the teacher is implementing DAP, if the children are
engaging in and reaching markers of DAP, and if the curriculum and environment are
conducive to/facilitating DAP. This pervasiveness becomes problematic when a onesize-fits-all mentality, grounded in the image of the White, monolingual, male, heterosexual child, not only disaffirms diversity but also stigmatizes children of color
through discourses of underdevelopment and underachievement.
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 7
Intimately tied to DAP are notions of quality in early education and care. While
one cannot disavow the importance of providing safe, caring, and nourishing spaces
and experiences for young children (as we should for all in our communities), quality
in early childhood has been produced through a developmental framework that
attempts to standardize childhoods across contexts (Dahlberg et al., 2007). As a term
borrowed from the private sector, quality is measured by efficient production outcomes (e.g., producing the ideal White child) and framed by notions of consumerism
(e.g., ECEC as a product for the consumption of parents and society). Quality, like
DAP, is ubiquitous in the field and defined through “measurable” teacher practices,
program curriculum, child outcomes, and school readiness. For children who are
socially marginalized, the propagation of quality in early childhood means yet another
criterion used to measure the Other against and the production of intervention programs such as Head Start to ensure children’s readiness for Kindergarten (Graue,
1993; Iorio, Parnell, & Borch, 2015). As Graue (2006) argues:
Interventions that provide quality learning contexts include publically funded preschool programs for
children seen to be at risk (like Head Start), parent education programs, and health resources. Targeting
resources to particular subgroups is a response to scarce resources but also belies a deep distrust in the ability of
certain families to support their children [emphasis added]. It also allows us to ignore the basic inequities that
produce the differences in contexts for White middle class children and children living in poverty. (p. 49)
Graue’s (2006) assessment of “quality”-based interventions illustrates what some
might argue are misguided efforts to care for our most underresourced children and
families through deficit approaches that stigmatize people living in poverty and
ignore systemic issues that perpetuate inequities.
Measuring Quality
Prominent assessment tools that purport to measure quality are the Early
Childhood Environmental Rating Scale–Revised (Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2004)
and the Infant and Toddler Environmental Rating Scale–Revised (Harms, Clifford,
& Cryer, 2006). These tools are said to assess the quality of early childhood environments for the “use of space, materials, and experiences” (Red Leaf Press, n.d., p. 1).
In problematizing rating instruments, Dahlberg et al. (2007) posit,
The concept of quality is primarily about defining, through the specification of criteria, a generalizable
standard against which a product can be judged with certainty . . . intended to enable us to know whether
or not something—be it a manufactured or service product—achieves the standard. (p. 93)
In relation to early childhood, instruments like the Early Childhood Environmental
Rating Scale–Revised and Infant and Toddler Environmental Rating Scale–Revised,
by means of a gendered, postpositivist scientific gaze, are said to measure whether a
8 Review of Research in Education, 41
teacher, the classroom environment, and children’s engagement within that environment meet a universalized standard. Especially problematic is that these tools are
being increasingly used as a global standard of quality in ECEC. We can find many
more examples of assessment instruments in K–3 educational contexts like DIBELS
and the IOWA Test of Basic Skills. We must question, however, against what standards we are measuring children of color, who, in particular, are most likely to be
excessively tested and constructed as needing to be “fixed”—to become the White,
middle-class, monolingual child. As Delpit (2012) reminds us, “African American
children do not come into this world as a deficit” (p. 5).
Quality Rating and Improvement Systems
In the United States, quality in ECEC has gained additional momentum in recent
years through infusion of federal dollars that, if sought by individual states, require
the design and implementation of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems
(QRISs). Through QRISs, child cares and preschools become part of a tiered or star
rating system that judges programs based on children’s adherence to early learning
guidelines and teacher/program evaluation by the state. While QRISs are often presented as voluntary, many programs are obliged to participate because they are linked
to accreditation and funding streams.
As an example QRIS, New Mexico’s FOCUS has enforced yet another required
assessment. In programs like Head Start, which serve low-income, mainly bilingual
children of color in New Mexico, FOCUS has become an assessment tool teachers
are required to implement in addition to other assessment programs like Teaching
Strategies Gold, mandated by state and/or federal agencies. On numerous occasions
across programs in the state, we have witnessed teachers’ stress and anxieties about
implementing FOCUS. They cite that rather than being present with children during pedagogical engagements and having time to build meaningful relationships
with families, they are spending valuable time documenting outcomes and filling
out forms.
Mainstays of early childhood, such as DAP, quality, assessment tools, and QRISs,
contribute to the labeling, tracking, and inequities imposed on children of color and
those with marginalized identities not only in the United States but also on a global
scale. Early childhood has become a mechanism to “fix” children and families, and
to “close the gap” between the ideal child and children who embody racialized/
Othered identities. Critical perspectives on early childhood have challenged and
rethought developmental viewpoints (Bloch, 2013). Examples of early childhood
critical scholarship (which we expand on in the following section) include work that
has theorized power hierarchies and made challenges to truth and universal claims
embedded in developmental perspectives. While these have been important acts of
resistance to the struggle for equity and social justice in early childhood, we find that
critically oriented scholars continue to dominantly draw and theorize from global
north positionings.
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 9
Global North Disruptions From Global North Perspectives
As an attempt to open new spaces for theory and praxis within ECEC, critically
oriented scholars have engaged with theoretical perspectives that are outside the
developmental psychology that has unquestionably influenced and perhaps dogmatically constructed the field (Burman, 1994, 2008; Cannella, 1997; Lubeck, 1996;
Walkerdine, 1993). By doing so, critical scholars are finding different language, discourses and philosophical suppositions that create or break open spaces for rethinking and reconceptualtizing early childhood. Drawing from global north perspectives
in sociology, and poststructuralist, feminist, and posthumanist theories, many critical
scholars have offered new ways to think about working with young children in ways
developmental psychology has not allowed (Blaise, 2005; Blaise, Banerjee, PaciniKetchabaw, & Taylor, 2013; Cannella, 1997; Dahlberg et al., 2007; James & Prout,
1990; Jenks, 2005; MacNaughton, 2005; Olsson, 2009; Taylor, 2013).
Inherent in critically oriented scholarship is the recognition that what is seen or
observed is heavily influenced by the theories that frame not only the concept of
childhood but also the way particular knowledge production is valued over others.
From critical perspectives, childhoods have been reimagined through theoretical discussions on the linguistic and deconstructive turn (Derrida, 1976, 1981; Foucault
1972, 1977, 1978; Rorty, 1967), rhizomatic lines of flights (Deleuze & Guattari,
1987), and, most recently, posthumanist studies and new materialism (Barad, 2003,
2007; Haraway, 1991, 2004; Latour, 2004). As such, critical voices from the global
north are de/re/constructing the concept of childhood and consequently ECEC. This
scholarship is indeed pointing to deep philosophical, ontological, and epistemological elements that contribute to inequities in early childhood. However, theorizing
remains situated in global north positionings.
Sociopolitical and Historical Constructions of the Child
Reexaminations of origins are powerful ways to deconstruct and reconstruct
images of childhood (Cannella, 1997). What we know today about childhood is
influenced not merely by a pure search for objective knowledge but perhaps, more
centrally, also by discourses and fictions established in society through dominant his/
stories told. Understanding childhood as a separate and distinct stage in life, for
instance, has not been a natural, inevitable evolution of society’s treatment of younger
human beings. Consequently, many have problematized the origins and allegiance to
developmental psychology and DAP in ECEC (Burman, 2008; Cannella, 1997;
Lubeck, 1996; Walkerdine, 1984, 1993).
Burman (2008) states that the rise of developmental psychology occurred within
a time of social unrest, in which there was great concern for how “urbanization
brought about rapid industrialization [and] produced the appalling conditions of the
Victorian slums” (p. 18). This concern coalesced with growing interests in fields like
statistics and sociology, whose purpose was to study and regulate populations.
Important in this brief historical account is that the most influential field for early
10 Review of Research in Education, 41
childhood, developmental psychology, was in fact a tool designed to examine human
deficiencies and pathologies (poverty, bad habits, etc.) and how to “fix” them. This is
no different than most contemporary educational reforms like NCLB or RTTT-ELC
that have constructed an achievement gap, rooted in a view of the individual, without
regard to inequitable structural conditions produced in our society and the racist and
colonizing instruments used to measure a supposed gap. Soto (1997) and Bloch
(1991, 1992) have critiqued how a vast majority of the scholarship in the field of
early childhood has been created through and relied solely on the science and postpositivist empiricism prevalent in modernist understandings of the world. Historically,
the pursuit of modernity was to establish universal claims through order and purity
(Burman, 2008). Within early childhood, developmental psychology has been used
to frame empirical research in early years contexts, like nurseries, to produce universal
norms and the hierarchical ordering of childhoods (Rose, 1990). The scientific gaze,
then, was turned onto the child in order to monitor her or his every move, attitude,
and demeanor (Walkerdine, 1993).
In 1960s and 1970s Europe, young children were being measured at every turn.
No longer was it necessary to know if a child could learn certain concepts, she/he had
to be constantly measured. Perhaps it could be argued that testing and measuring
allow a society to “know” and “understand” children. However, fields cannot be separated from their sociohistorical and political roots, and as such, critical early childhood scholars have posited that developmental psychology has not been an innocent
nor neutral force. In fact, to be viewed as a legitimate field and to gain status, developmental psychology has attempted to emulate the science of western medicine. We
can find contemporary evidence of these constructions in the 2010 National Council
for Accreditation of Teacher Education report that uses medically situated terminology to make recommendations for teacher education by suggesting an “Rx for
Transformation” (p. 16). Other examples include technologies such as IQ testing,
which creates social hierarchies that privilege White, middle-class children as intellectually superior (Bowles & Gintis, 2002). Clearly the inheritance of “scientific
legitimation upon practices of social regulation, social division and (supposed)
reform” (Burman, 2008, p. 21) has not served all children, much less children of
color (Cannella, 1997; Soto, 1997). The opposite has occurred, with an ever-widening “achievement gap,” where the pathology lies within the mental realm of children
of color and their communities (Goodwin, Cheruvu, & Genishi, 2007). The contemporary notion of an achievement gap, then, can be viewed as socially, politically,
and even medically constructed.
What we can learn from critical scholarship is that ECEC is (and works for) certain children, namely, those coming from cultures with privilege like European and
Anglo-American White, male, middle classes. The discourses of DAP, quality, and
observational instruments are extensions of historical constructions of childhood that
have led to the design of research and pedagogy from very narrow perspectives
(Cannella, 1997; Lubeck, 1996). It is no great mystery, then, why White middle- to
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 11
upper-class children perform “better” on developmental rating scales and in schools;
they are positioned on the high end of the achievement gap. It is not that children
from this group are inherently smarter; rather they are advantaged because the very
construction of early childhood is patterned, normed, and created for them.
(Re)Centering Global South Perspectives In Early
Childhood Education And Care
[epistemological] diversity involves the recognition that the theories produced in the global North are best
equipped to account for the social, political, and cultural realities of the global North and that in order
adequately to account for the realities of the global South other theories must be developed and anchored
in other epistemologies—the epistemologies of the South. (de Sousa Santos, 2012, p. 45)
As we have illustrated, there has been a marked persistence of global north ontoepistemologies in early childhood studies, whether in what is considered “traditional”
early childhood or in critical scholarship. When contemplating a more equitable
field, where our thoughts and actions begin with visions of children of color as
extraordinary, we argue that early childhood research and pedagogy must be derived
from global south onto-epistemologies. Chicana feminism (Anzaldúa, 1987) and
Black feminist thought (Collins, 2008) are two examples of global south worldviews
that can move early childhood in a more equitable and socially just direction.
Black and Chicana Feminisms as Essential to
Early Childhood Education and Care
For some time, we, as Latina scholars (and Others, including our White allies),
have pushed for the centralization of marginalized onto-epistemologies in both traditional and critical ECEC scholarship (Bloch & Swadener, 2009; Habashi, 2005;
Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2007; M. S. Pérez, 2017; Ritchie & Rau, 2013; Saavedra, 2011a,
2011b; Soto, 2001; Souto-Manning, 2013; Viruru, 2001). The absence of theories in
the flesh (a Chicana feminism concept centering on lived/corporeal experiences as
theory; Moraga, 1983) is disconcerting, not only because it excludes the presence of
women and people of color from the conversation but also because it has dire consequences for how we construct and view historically marginalized children and what
is prioritized (or in some cases, completely ignored) in research and pedagogy. We
continue to head down a dangerous path, however, with significant scholarship
showing no concern for critical identity politics, or even just as troubling, that we
have somehow moved beyond the need to make central the lived realities of so many
in oppressive conditions the world over (M. S. Pérez & Saavedra, 2015). In traditional early childhood, this plays out in the reification of deficit perspectives through
developmental and quality narratives and is propagated by public policy and the early
childhood industrial complex. For scholars theorizing critically, it seems as if there is
a constant need to engage in what is viewed as innovative contemplations, such as
decentering the human (Braidotti, 2013)—scholarship that is not only usurped from
12 Review of Research in Education, 41
indigenous worldviews, at times without acknowledgement but that we find also
often ignores and/or continues to disregard the ways in which young children of
color and their communities are constructed and minoritized. This moment in all
aspects of the field, we believe, is a consequence of the persistent reliance on global
north positionings.
As such, we posit that theories in the flesh (Moraga & Anzaldúa, 1983) can influence how we engage with children of color in both research and practice. Moraga
(1983) conceptualizes theory in the flesh as “the physical realities of our lives—our
skin color, the land or concrete we grew up on, our sexual longings—all fuse[d] to
create a politic born out of necessity” (p. 23). The necessity is “naming ourselves and
telling our stories in our own words” (p. 23). It is undeniable that marginalized
embodied experiences are important not only to emphasize inequities but also to
give birth to new theories–ways of understanding the world around us. Therefore,
as we envision the future of ECEC, we hope for a space that honors the legacies and
contemporary knowledges that women of color and indigenous peoples have
bestowed on us—and how these global south perspectives are essential (and will
continue to be essential as long as injustice exists) to any research or pedagogical
project, especially ones that entail working with and advocating for minoritized
youth and communities.
As theories in the flesh, both Black and Chicana feminisms are derived from the
everyday embodied experiences of people of color. At the same time, both are unique.
As such, in the forthcoming, we share a brief account of how Black and Chicana
feminisms, as global south onto-epistemologies, can individually and collectively
transform ECEC.
Black Feminisms
Black feminisms are diverse and span across a number of fields, including sociology, women’s studies, and education (Collins, 2008; Dillard, 2006; Evans-Winters &
Love, 2015a; hooks, 2000). Through multiple and varied articulations, such as
endarkened feminism (Dillard, 2012), womanism (Maparpan, 2012), and Black
feminist thought (Collins, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011), the Subaltern voices of women
of color have theorized their lived experiences of oppression and empowerment
(Guy-Sheftall, 1995; hooks, 2000, 2006, 2010). Theory as lived (and the lived as
theory) makes Black feminisms distinctive from most global north positionings,
which often separate embodied knowing from theorizing. Black feminist onto-epistemologies, instead, are communicated through spoken, corporeal, and written word
in the forms of storytelling, poetry, song, and art, to provide her-sotrical accounts of
the lived realities of Black women’s subjugation, resistance, and self/collective empowerment and liberation (Lorde, 1984; Morrison, 1994; Walker 1983; Washington,
1975). An example is Audre Lorde’s (1984) approach to collective resistance through
poetry. She explains:
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 13
As we come more into touch with our own ancient, non-european consciousness of living as a situation to
be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those
hidden sources of power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes. (p. 37)
Lorde (1984) goes on to explain how poetry can allow us to tap into embodied
knowledge, inspiring resistance and action that stems from a place beyond the use of
the master’s tools.
Another central aspect of Black feminisms is intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991).
Intersectionalities make up the myriad identities that one embodies (through constructions of gender, sexuality, race, language, and ability, to name a few), and influence the ways in which one is socially positioned in a given context. For a girl in early
childhood, when her identity as a “young” “child” intersects with her class, race, sexuality, and language, the multiple circumstances she encounters can both privilege and
oppress her. The notion of intersectionalities has been further theorized in what
Collins (2008) refers to as matrices of domination. As a mainstay of Black feminist
thought, matrices of domination function as domains of power that materialize as
structural, disciplinary, hegemonic, and interpersonal oppressions (for an in-depth
explanation of domains of power, see Collins, 2008, 2009; M. S. Pérez & Williams,
2014). Other important aspects of Black feminisms are transnationalism, spirituality,
the notion of individual struggle/empowerment as connected to the collective, working toward social justice across cultural groups (especially ones that experience similar
oppressive circumstances), and activism as imperative to social transformation
(Dillard, 2006; hooks 2006, 2010; Collins, 2008). It is clear that Black feminisms, as
a form of global south thinking, can help shift our historical and contemporary reliance on global north perspectives in early childhood, while at the same time creating
a more equitable and just world.
Chicana Feminism
Drawing from the works of Anzaldúa (1987, 1990, 2002), Moraga (1983, 1993),
and Moraga and Anzaldúa (1983), Chicana feminist scholars have made important
and critical contributions to the field of education (Calderón, Delgado Bernal,
Huber, Malagón, & Vélz, 2012; Delgado Bernal, 1998; Delgado Bernal, Elenes,
Godinez, & Villenas 2006; Saavedra & Nymark, 2008). The conceptual frameworks
in this scholarship stem from centering the marginalized ways of knowing and living
of Chicana/o and Latina/o communities. Villenas, Godinez, Delgado Bernal, and
Elenes (2006) “challenge the starting points and theoretical lenses against which
Chicana/Latina lives and ways of knowing are measured” (p. 4). By centering lived
experiences, Chicana feminist educational scholars complicate the boundaries of
theories, methodologies, and pedagogies (Calderón, 2014; Cervantes-Soon, 2014;
Elenes, 2013; Franquiz, Avila, & Ayala, 2013; Prieto, 2013; Saavedra, 2011b).
Chicana feminism opens spaces of possibilities within ECEC. Concepts like cultural intuition (Delgado Bernal, 1998), embodied experiences (Cruz, 2001; Trujillo,
14 Review of Research in Education, 41
1998), and borderlands (Anzaldúa, 1987; Elenes, 1997) become centralized and necessary to “see” minoritized children in their brilliance. As Villenas et al. (2006) assert,
researchers and teachers can understand the “sensibilities that children and youth
bring to school from their mothers and other family members” (p. 5). Furthermore,
Delgado Bernal’s (1998) concept of cultural intuition is one way Chicana feminists
have drawn from their lived experiences, community knowledge, and genealogies to
inform their work. Instead of dissecting them/selves from who they are, their multiple selves are collectively made central to research and praxis (Calderón et al., 2012;
Soto, 2009).
Embodied experiences also play a crucial role in the education of Brown bodies.
Cruz (2001) explores the ways that Brown bodies are disciplined and fragmented in
school settings but offers hope when she states that rethinking the Brown body as a
site of knowledge production “begins the validation of the narratives of survival,
transformation, and emancipation of our respective communities, reclaiming histories and identities” (p. 668). Furthermore, Chicana feminists’ use of the literal and
metaphorical concept of the borderlands (Anzaldúa, 1987; Elenes, 1997; Saavedra &
Nymark, 2008) gives way to hybrid identities and knowing. The notion of borderlands is another powerful illumination of how people who embody multiple minoritized cultures and speak several languages navigate dominant discourses and find
third spaces of resistance and transformation (Anzaldúa, 2002; E. Pérez, 1999).
Using Black and Chicana Feminisms to Honor Lived Experiences, Challenge
Deficit Constructions of Childhood/s, and Transform Teacher Education
As illustrated in our brief theoretical discussion, both Black and Chicana feminisms offer important resistance to hegemonic worldviews and imaginaries for sites
of empowerment. In similar but unique ways, identity and the body are theorized as
connected to cultural epistemologies, and used not only to challenge power hierarchies but also to connect our-selves to a larger collective spirit and action toward
social justice. When theories in the flesh like Black and Chicana feminisms are centralized in early education and care, the following occurs:
•• Lived experiences of children of color, who are most prominent in the world, are
•• We begin to question our own onto-epistemologies as scholars, teachers, and
teacher educators that often prohibit us from recognizing and taking seriously
marginality and oppressive, deficit constructions of the Other.
•• Teacher education and the workforce are transformed.
Most important, as these points of equity come to fruition, viewing minoritized children as brilliant becomes foundational to the field.
In the forthcoming, we provide illustrations of global south imaginaries in ECEC.
While some of the examples we share are from scholars who are not explicitly using
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 15
Black or Chicana feminisms, we find that their messages speak directly to the aims/
intentions of these theories. Additionally, while some, but not all, examples address
an early childhood context, we believe that it speaks to the need for us to borrow
more often from the important sociopolitical scholarship in other fields, including
elementary, secondary, and higher education, to find ways they can be useful for challenging inequities in early childhood.
Lived Experiences Matter
When we use global south onto-epistemologies in early childhood, lived experiences of children of color, who are most prominent in the world, are legitimized. In
engaging with emergent bilingual children, for example, research and teaching
become grounded in the understanding that linguistically minoritized children bring
important skills and knowledges to education and care contexts. Emergent bilingual
children readily draw from their cultural intuition (Delgado Bernal, 1998) and funds
of knowledge (González et al., 2005) to make sense of their daily lives not only at
home and in their communities but also in schools (Riojas-Cortez, 2001). The effort
then lies with researchers and educators to recognize and affirm young children’s
intuitive ways of knowing and being.
Orellana’s (2001) study with Mexican and Central American children highlights
the importance of honoring bilingual youth’s everyday worlds. Orellana’s thesis is to
move away from seeing children as merely in preparation to becoming adults.
Latina/o children are much more than this. They are cultural and linguistic brokers,
helpers, and volunteers and are important contributing members of their communities and families. When the curriculum centers these experiences, children are able to
use their cultural intuition and funds of knowledge to make deeper and more meaningful connections to school knowledge, thereby fostering an opportunity for them
to participate in early education and care environments on their own terms with their
own cultural understandings. As an example of this, rethinking the concept of language and literacy through a Chicana/Latina feminist lens, Saavedra (2011b) has
centered the Latin American literary genre of testimonio (Beverly, 2005; Elenes,
2000; The Latina Feminist Group, 2001) as a tool for young children in the borderlands to draw from and center their lived experiences as part of the language arts
Testimonio is a type of personal narrative that connects to a larger collective experience of oppressed communities (Blackmer Reyes & Curry Rodriguez, 2012;
Delgado Bernal, Burciaga, & Flores Carmona, 2012). Sharing testimonios becomes
important as it captures the realities of emergent and immigrant children living in
geopolitical, epistemological, and cultural borderlands (Anzaldúa, 1987). Through
testimonio, the hybridity of knowledge becomes an important tool for learning processes, living, and navigating between worlds. Centering a child’s stories is a way to
validate embodied experiences as essential to learning. As a result, children do not
have to hide their expertise, skills, and knoweldges and, in fact, become organic
16 Review of Research in Education, 41
intellectuals where they are encouraged to theorize their lived ways of knowing. Using
testimonios, then, is a way to not only honor their stories but also, equally important,
to allow teachers and researchers to learn from their wisdom.
Norton’s (2008) work surrounding the intersections of race, spirituality, gender,
and song in early childhood, and the knowledge produced from such lived experiences, is another articulation of what many Black feminists describe as embodied
ways of knowing (hooks, 2000; Maparyan, 2012). Song historically, has been
regarded in some Black communities as “sacred and serves as a manifestation of spirituality to alter mental, physical, emotional, and physical states of people’s beings and
to struggle against oppressive structures (Cone, 1997; George, 1988)” (Norton,
2008, p. 343). As such, Norton (2008) points to the significance of seeing music and
song not merely as a part of early years’ curriculum but rather as part of the spiritual
identities and practices of many communities of color.
To capture this embodied way of knowing in young children, in her participatory
research, Norton (2008) engages in the school and home environments of Kevin, a
working-class, male, Black, and self-identified spiritual first grader. When she joins
Kevin at church, Norton finds that he is accustomed to expressing his spirituality
through song and dance. However, when he goes to school, Kevin struggles with policies that limit movement. Furthermore, he encounters oppressive stereotypes of
Black males as “unruly” or “unable to control themselves” (Norton, 2008, p. 351;
Phillips, 1994). Norton (2008) posits, “Situating Kevin’s body movements as spiritual practices challenges inequitable constructions of Kevin’s intersecting identities as
male child, Black child, and/or Black male child” (p. 351). In problematizing child
development discourses that sustain younger children as unable to self-regulate and
therefore, prohibit body movements, Norton further explains that “children are sustained as unknowing, untamed beings in need of developing self-control (Burman,
1994). In turn, body movements of children such as Kevin are read as out of control
rather than as manifestations of spiritual control and knowing” (p. 351).
Instead of evaluating Kevin as behind on developmental markers of self-regulation, or reprimanding him for not assimilating to the ideal of a “properly” developing
White child, Kevin’s teacher, who connects to Kevin’s struggle as a Black spiritual
man, encourages Kevin to move when he needs to (whether in his seat or around the
classroom), listen to music with headphones, or sing softly to himself. In this way, the
teacher is fostering and honoring Kevin’s lived, embodied experiences in a school setting, as a Black, young, spiritual, male being.
In using global south onto-epistemologies in early education and care, connections can be made between the everyday experiences of children of color and the
theories and methods we use to engage with them as teachers and researchers. If we
view children of color through a completely detached, global north lens, we reify
disconnections between their lived experiences and our scholarship and teaching.
The purpose for research and pedagogy, then, shifts as our encounters with children
of color are informed by global south positionings, which honor situated and embodied knowledges.
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 17
Challenging Hegemonic Understandings of Marginalized Childhoods
In our previous examples of global south scholarship, we see how Black and
Chicana feminisms assist in recognizing how lived experiences and cultural knowledge influences our thinking and approaches to research and pedagogy. For far too
long, young children of color have been viewed as needing to be “fixed” so they can
be productive in society as well as to assimilate to the values, attitudes, and ways of
being of the dominant culture (Spring, 2010). These deep-seated beliefs about children of color and/or working-class people only serves to perpetuate the idea that
White Euro-American middle-upper class families are superior. Global south ontoepistemologies can change not only the current conversation that focuses on deficit
conceptualizations of children of color but also the discourses that go unquestioned
and keep us from seeing their potentials, brilliance, and capabilities (Delpit, 2006).
Diversifying our onto-epistemological positionings in early childhood research and
pedagogy by taking seriously and legitimizing the important contributions of global
south scholars, like Chicana and Black feminists, challenges and shifts hegemonic
Redeaux (2011) and Montaño and Quintanar-Sarellana (2011) are examples of
scholars engaging in such work. Redeaux expresses, “I am a Black youth. I teach
Black youth. I am attentive to the way these youths are described, portrayed, perceived. Because I teach “these children.” And I am one of “these children” (p. 177).
Drawing from her lived experiences as a woman of color, Redeaux has problematized
the “culture of poverty” espoused by programs like Ruby Payne’s “framework for
understanding poverty.” Used for teacher’s professional development in birth through
Grade 12 education, Payne has built a multimillion-dollar empire on discussing class
in a way that she believes transcends intersectional identity markers. However, the
methods and scenarios Payne teaches from blame the individual and ignore how
White supremacy, heteronormativity, and structural and institutional patriarchy
(e.g., matrices of domination) perpetuate poverty conditions. There is no acknowledgement of children’s intersectional and varied lived realities and the role that ethnicity, race, language, and Othered social positionings play in one’s experience with
class oppression—instead Payne lumps all into one “culture of poverty.” In subtle and
at times obvious ways, harmful stereotypes are propagated in the vignettes used by
Ruby Payne to engage in discussions with teachers about class, where too often, “the
White mother is a victim of circumstance . . . [and] the Black mother is the victim of
her own bad choices and behavior” (Redeaux, 2011, p. 186).
Similarly, Montaño and Quintanar-Sarellana (2011) find that Ruby Payne ignores
struggles of immigrant children in oppressive school contexts, viewing their poverty
conditions “as merely a consequence of language deficiencies that need to be remediated” (p. 199). They explain:
The cultural and linguistic knowledge of the immigrant student and his/her ability to negotiate the
unfriendly terrain of schooling and society are completely ignored . . . Payne’s failure to acknowledge the
18 Review of Research in Education, 41
complexities of language learning also allows teachers to easily chalk up the social discourse of Chicana/oLatina/o and African American students as an inferior language form. (p. 199)
Providing an alternative to Ruby Payne, Montaño and Quintanar-Sarellana (2011)
suggest that schools use valuable resources (e.g., time and scarce funds) to support
teachers in making stronger relationships with families and “tap the cultural and
linguistic knowledge of the students, infuse this knowledge into the curriculum and
ultimately facilitate the process where students resist the policies and practices that
reproduce the social inequality and perpetuate class differences” (p. 202).
Deficit-based programs like Ruby Payne’s are a prime example of what happens
when we continue to use global north perspectives in early childhood. Unfortunately,
some educators, especially those who have not had the opportunity to critically challenge global north viewpoints on poverty and education, view Ruby Payne as a
resource to support “poor” children and families. A global north onto-epistemology
supports such programs and misguides teacher’s equity advocacy when it constructs
poverty within a vacuum. When a teacher/scholar activist, such as Redeaux (2011),
however, uses her global south positioning to culturally and intuitively connect to her
students’ experiences and livelihoods (Delgado Bernal, 1998), the construction of the
deficit Other no longer persists; instead, her students are regarded as brilliant and
their identities seen as attributes and essential to learning, curriculum, school culture,
and larger society.
Transforming Teacher Education and the Workforce
A critical worldview requires teachers to develop an understanding between ideology, culture, hegemony,
and power and to become transformative educators committed to radically changing the “traditional”
curriculum, to transform society. (Montaño & Quintanar-Sarellana, 2011, p. 210)
Black and Chicana feminisms inspire us to question and deviate from the commonsense knowledge (Kumashiro, 2009) that children’s underdevelopment and
underachievement are rooted in—individual psychology and/or the biology of
minoritized children. At the same time, looking at the sociohistorical context that
drives the political and economic divisions between White people and people of color
also serves a way to interrogate “failure” within a larger context. Even though these
deficit discourses have been extensively challenged (Delpit, 2006; Ladson-Billings,
1994; Swadener & Lubeck, 1995), we have yet to experience a radical shift in early
childhood, whether in teacher education, public policy, or research. Specific to
teacher education, we find instead that in most programs, global south worldviews
continue to only be addressed in one multicultural education class or perhaps in a
graduate feminist or critically oriented research course. If we are to move the field in
new and equitable directions, we believe early childhood teachers and teacher educators must be at the forefront of the movement.
Examples of scholars who have engaged in transformative early childhood teacher
education from global south positionings include Souto-Manning (2010), M. S.
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 19
Pérez, Ruiz Guerrero, and Mora (2016), and Reza-López, Huerta Charles, and
Reyes (2014), among many others (Delpit & Dowdy, 2002; Genishi & Goodwin,
2007; Saavedra, 2011b; Soto, 2009). Souto-Manning (2010) has employed Freirean
cultural circles with teachers in order to “move away from the model of education
that is based on transmission of knowledge to students’ brains like money into
banks” (p. 11). Instead, both she and the teachers she works with become critical
ethnographers and learners of their students, tapping into and engaging in conversations surrounding race, class, gender, language, and sexuality oppressions, based on
the valuable cultural knowledges and experiences that educators and children bring
with them to school. Souto-Manning (2010) explains that “in this process, authority is dialectically negotiated as teachers assume the role of facilitators and focus on
problem posing as they seek to engage in critical education (Kincheloe & Steinberg,
1998)” (p. 14). Through dialogic, transformative teacher education, approaches like
cultural circles can “build and change the world” (p. 31).
M. S. Pérez, Ruiz Guerrero, and Mora (2016) have taken a similar action oriented
approach to teacher education through the use of Black feminist thought (Collins,
2008) in combination with photovoice. Photovoice (Wang & Burris, 1997) is a
Freirean, feminist, participatory research and pedagogical tool where participants use
photography to capture images that illustrate oppressive social conditions. Connecting
course content on issues like colonization, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, and
language oppression, early childhood undergraduate students, who are predominately women of color, engaged in Black feminist photovoice to explore their own
intersectional identities and uncover power hierarchies embedded in early education
and care and larger society. Black feminist photovoice prompted pre/in-service teachers’ critical understandings and discussion of oppressions that marginalized children
and families face systemically and in their everyday worldly encounters. Students
then collectively generated possibilities for engaging in transformative action that
supports families and communities and works toward challenging inequities.
For Reza-López et al. (2014), transforming the early childhood workforce, and in
particular, educators of children in the U.S./Mexico borderlands, requires a different
theoretical framework by using multiple concepts like Anzaldúa’s (2002) conocimiento and nepantla, Freire’s (1978) conscientization, and Bakhtin’s (1981) dialogism and ideological becoming. Important is how the authors use Anzaldúa’s work as
an epistemological, cultural, and geopolitical perspective that centers on borderland
communities. Anzaldúa has theorized nepantla as an in-between space where the
straddling of epistemologies, cultures, and languages occurs. Conocimiento is the
process of understanding life through a series of recursive stages that allow for individual spiritual growth that transforms into social action or what Anzaldúa (2002)
calls spiritual activism. Reza-Lopez et al. (2014) recognize that nepantla and conocimiento allow educators “to understand the space that positions . . . bilingual students . . . as individuals with potential and not as at risk or in limbo” (p. 110). The
authors argue that in order for teachers to connect with minoritized children’s ambiguities, angsts, and daily navigations, in-between spaces like nepantla must be
20 Review of Research in Education, 41
acknowledged. However, the authors posit that this cannot occur if teachers are
unable to recognize and draw from their own nepantla. Reza et al. then envision a
nepantlera pedagogy where in-/preservice teachers “recognize themselves as both
social subjects and cultural workers committed to social sensibility and compassion,
recognizing that all students have the potential to learn” (pp. 117-118). This requires
“respect for Latino students and their families’ cultural and linguistics background”
and for teachers to “embrace the commitment of social activism to transform any
oppressive and discriminatory social practices” (pp. 117-118).
In these examples of transformative teacher education, we find that Chicana,
Black feminist, and Other global south perspectives inspire new imaginaries that can
challenge our global north approaches to early childhood teacher education. With
the rising number of White teachers entering the field, teacher educators must be
equipped with theories of the flesh to connect pedagogical engagements with the
lived realities of marginalized families and communities. Furthermore, Valenzuela
(2016) reminds us that being a teacher of color and/or multilingual does not in itself
make a global south–oriented teacher. Through feminist, global south rethinkings of
teacher education, however, “critical educators realize that changes in inequitable
conditions will only happen through political action, not through the reinforcement
of deficit views. Children are not changed to fit into society, but society changes to
meet the realities of the student” (Montaño & Quintanar-Sarellana, 2011, p. 210).
As scholar activists, we must then continue to forge spaces in teacher education for
centering global south onto-epistemologies. Shifting from global north to global
south perspectives can transform the early childhood workforce and, in turn, provide
more meaningful, nondeficit, dialogic, and decolonial spaces for children of color.
Imagining New Global South Directions In Early
Childhood Education And Care: Questions And
As early childhood educators, feminists of color, and scholar activists, we make an
urgent call for recentering global south perspectives in ECEC. Our advocacy for ontoepistemological diversity stems from a deep place of love and concern for marginalized
youth and families. In our discussions with early childhood educators and scholars
across the United States and the globe, we find that many times, even our White,
global north colleagues (whether taking a critical or traditional approach to early
childhood) have similar concerns about the deficit positioning of marginalized communities. What, then, must we do to move forward as advocates for a more socially
just and equitable early childhood? We believe, without question, that centering global
south perspectives is a necessary place to begin. When we do so, injustices are unveiled
and challenged, and the brilliance of children of color is the starting point for all discussions, whether surrounding research, pedagogy, teacher education, or public policy.
It is this focus on children of color’s brilliance where the real transformation lies. In
centering global south onto-epistemologies, we will no longer persist in using scales to
Pérez, Saavedra: Global South Perspectives in ECEC 21
construct and measure developmental and achievement gaps. More scholars and educators of color will feel as if they are a welcomed part of the conversation, and profitability will no longer determine the value of a child’s livelihood. Furthermore, all
children’s identities will be “seen” and treated with love and respect. When our worldviews shift from deficit to recognizing children of color’s brilliance, so can our engagements with early childhood research and pedagogy.
When we ask ourselves what contributions we will make to a global south recentering in early childhood, we think about continuing to read, learn from, and engage
with women of color scholars, like Patricia Hill Collins and Gloria Anzaldúa, and the
many her/historical figures who have come before them to teach us valuable lessons
about collective struggle, perseverance, and transformation (Evans-Winters & Love,
2015b). We think about working across our many constructed boundaries in order to
challenge our engagements in oppositional politics and whose or what agenda they
really serve (Keating, 2013). We think about our connections with our communities
and Other communities of color (children, teachers, and elders alike), and how to
learn from them, strengthen our bonds and collaborative efforts, and advocate with
them. And finally, we think of how we will move forward in our scholarship and
teaching, always questioning its purpose and ways that it can enhance efforts to bring
about equity and social justice in ECEC. In some ways, this transformation in worldviews seems simple, yet we believe it is revolutionary. For the readers of our urgent
call, we must turn the question to you and ask, “What role will you play in the global
south revolution?”
1Although “early
childhood” can take on many meanings, for the purposes of this chapter,
we define it as birth to age 8.
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