Construction of evil in early childhood education and care

The aim of this research project is to study how evil is constructed, resisted, and transformed in the context of early childhood education and care.

The study of evil is increasingly relevant amidst our global sustainability crises, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, often stated to require a change of morality brought about by education. From this perspective, education represents an agent of moral transformation concerning, for example, human relations towards the environment. In order to understand how this change towards a new morality occurs, there is also a need to understand evil as an empirical human phenomenon that is meaningful for fully understanding the multidimensionality of morality. However, educational research has mostly neglected the empirical study of evil and instead emphasized the pursuit of goodness.

This project aims to fill this gap in research by using ethnographic methodology to understand the construction of evil from the perspective of individual and communal moral systems that confront educational communities from within. The data used for the study include the Finnish curriculum for ECEC, a normative educational document regulating moral activity, as well as ethnographic field material, including diaries and video recordings, collected from a selected daycare center. The data is analyzed with critical discourse analysis and interactional analysis. The results are critically examined in relation to the sustainability of education to offer new information on the educational communities involvement in the construction of evil amidst sustainability crises.

Researcher: Emma Kurenlahti, Doctoral researcher

Funding: The Alli Paasikivi Foundation, 2020-2022