Playing the Festival Queen in Appalachia: Exploring the Influences of Local Culture on Classroom Play

This case study using ethnographic methods addresses how teachers shape cultural processes related to girlhoods, and the roles of children’s play in this dynamic. Poststructuralist theory of the carnival was used to analyze gendered, classed power dynamics within two rural Appalachian preschool classrooms influenced by a popular local festival. The findings indicate that the “feminist ” approach to cultivating “good ” girls for the communityóthose who could go to college to gain the capital to support men if needed (and thus the turbulent extractive industries)ódid not always have “feminist ” effects of equalizing gender roles. It masked a status quo that supported the domination by men and young boys over women and girls, including the classroom teachers and girls in this study. In addition, it supported the myth of the meritocracy and the role(s) of extractive economies in its construction, a narrative that continually excluded the working class from middle-class girls’ play spaces. The research suggested that place-based education and teachers’ understanding of classed, raced, and gendered tensions related to local community life are important ways of thinking about carnival in the classroom that may support possibilities for shifting power dynamics in play relations. © 2018, © 2018 Association for Childhood Education International.

This case study using ethnographic methods addresses how teachers shape cultural processes related to girlhoods, and the roles of children’s play in this dynamic. Poststructuralist theory of the carnival was used to analyze gendered, classed power dynamics within two rural Appalachian preschool classrooms influenced by a popular local festival. The findings indicate that the “feminist ” approach to cultivating “good ” girls for the communityóthose who could go to college to gain the capital to support men if needed (and thus the turbulent extractive industries)ódid not always have “feminist ” effects of equalizing gender roles. It masked a status quo that supported the domination by men and young boys over women and girls, including the classroom teachers and girls in this study. In addition, it supported the myth of the meritocracy and the role(s) of extractive economies in its construction, a narrative that continually excluded the working class from middle-class girls’ play spaces. The research suggested that place-based education and teachers’ understanding of classed, raced, and gendered tensions related to local community life are important ways of thinking about carnival in the classroom that may support possibilities for shifting power dynamics in play relations. © 2018, © 2018 Association for Childhood Education International.

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