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Heavy-metal Humpty Dumpty: dissonant masculinities within the context of the nursery.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/09/2006
<mark>Journal</mark>Gender and Education
Issue number5
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)523-537
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


To operationalize a feminist poststructuralist approach necessitates research of a close-up nature in order to track shifting subject positions through a range of social contexts and to explore the interpersonal and intrapersonal power relations that operate within them. Adopting this theoretical perspective, together with Connell's concept of hegemonic masculinity, this paper explores the practices and beliefs of one male nursery teacher, Ian, as he attempts to carry out a Government-funded initiative aimed at increasing the involvement of fathers and male carers in his nursery. Data are drawn from a sequence of interviews with Ian, his colleagues, and the participating fathers and male carers. The analysis shows how Ian experiences identity dissonance which can be interpreted as a struggle with competing aspects of masculinity as he slips in and out of forms of hegemonic masculinity, sometimes complicit and sometimes struggling to resist. This interpretation problematizes the essentialist nature of the concept of hegemonic masculinity.

Bibliographic note

This paper, reviewed by two expert referees, is a rigorous attempt to apply Connell's theories of hegemonic masculinity to the practices and experiences of a male nursery teacher. It is significant in so far as it tests out Connell's categories within a detailed case study. The findings provide an original theoretical contribution in two ways. Firstly they provide a critique of Connell since they reveal the essentialist nature of hegemonic masculinity. Secondly the analysis throws up the concept of identity dissonance within the nursery teacher's construction of his identity, augmenting related research by the same author on the construction of identity e.g. Warin and Dempster (2007). The paper is also significant in that it presents a very recognisable experience of the dilemmas that face men working in primary and early years educational settings. A TES article about this paper (05.01.07) has produced some very positive correspondence from practitioners and researchers. RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Education