A case study of Korean girls' constructions of girlhood in a kindergarten class
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This is a case study to explore Korean girls' construction of girlhoods in a kindergarten class in order to answer the two research questions: 1) What are the constructions of girlhood that emerge in a Korean kindergarten classroom? 2) How do the girls in the classroom negotiate the constructions of girlhood? Employing the conceptual framework of gender as being a social construction (Blaise, 2005; Davies, 2003; MacNaughton, 1997 & 2000; Thorne, 1993), I reconceptualize aspects of young girls' lives and behavior that for a long time have been regarded as insignificant, natural, and/or non-existent by mainstream ECE. The findings of this study will help fill a void in the current body of knowledge in Korean and Western ECE fields. I completed data collection in one Korean kindergarten class of 5-year-olds, located in Seoul, Korea. I gathered data from five different sources: 1) field notes from observations of students' speech and behavior; 2) audiotapes of students' conversations; 3) interviews with the students; 4) interviews with the classroom teachers; and 5) my research journals. Data analysis proceeded by searching for categories and codes following Strauss and Corbin (1998) in order to find emergent themes in relation to Korean girls' construction of girlhood. By observing girls' talk and behaviors through a social constructionist perspective, I have uncovered three constructions of girlhood in one Korean kindergarten. They are appearance-based girlish girlhood, oppositional girlhood, and heteronormative girlhood. Before uncovering the girls' lived experiences that are constituted by and constitute the constructions of girlhood, I portray how these girlhoods came to take place in an institutional setting, emphasizing the institution's curriculum, guidelines, and teachers. I then go into detail about the three constructed girlhoods that emerged under these institutional conditions. The emerging girlhoods in the research setting were discursively constructed in relation to three pervasive and imperative ideas about being a girl. Although the three constructions are relevant to different aspects of life for a young Korean girl, they are not mutually exclusive or competitive. First, appearance-based girlish girlhood is constituted by and constitutes girls' bodies and bodily practices by correctly signifying their gender. Oppositional girlhood manifests itself in girls' everyday endeavors to maintain the legitimacy of the gender binary. Finally, heteronormative girlhood is a reflection of the pervasiveness of heteronormativity in Korean society at large.