University of Oulu

Yliniva, K., Brunila, K. (2023). Re-Conceptualizing the Political Agency of Young Children in the Anthropocene. In: Wyn, J., Cahill, H., Cuervo, H. (eds) Handbook of Children and Youth Studies. Springer, Singapore.

Re-conceptualizing the political agency of young children in the Anthropocene

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Author: Yliniva, Kirsi1,2; Brunila, Kristiina2
Organizations: 1Faculty of Education and Psychology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2AGORA for the Study of Social Justice and Equality in Education -Research Centre, Department of Education, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: embargoed
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: , 2023
Publish Date: 2025-09-27


This chapter critically analyzes the reconfiguration of agency evident in early childhood education (ECE) and childhood studies research concerned with the Anthropocene, which is mostly grounded in posthumanist and new materialist approaches. Applying Foucault’s ideas related to problematization and Bacchi’s method “What is the problem represented to be?”, we discuss forms of agency idealized in ECE research of the Anthropocene — distributed, relational, more-than-human agency — which radically contest more traditional understandings of agency as individual, intentional, rational, autonomous, and exclusively human. We argue that ECE research of the Anthropocene — while emphasizing relational forms of agency and the harmonic co-existence of species — runs the risk of failing to adequately address the human and planetary predicament entangled with complex systems of power relations by undermining possibilities for children’s political agency necessary for challenging social and ecological injustices. We contend that rethinking ECE for the Anthropocene requires addressing both the risk of depoliticization inherent in the re-conceptualization of children’s agency and critical elaboration of the possibilities opened up by posthumanist and new materialist theories for shaping alternative future(s) and ways of living.

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ISBN: 978-981-4451-96-3
Pages: 1 - 20
DOI: 10.1007/978-981-4451-96-3_126-1
Host publication: Handbook of children and youth studies
Host publication editor: Wyn, Johanna
Cahill, Helen
Cuervo, Hernan
Type of Publication: A3 Book chapter
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Copyright information: © 2023 Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.