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Zsuzsa Millei: Childhood and nation in everyday life

Published on 14.6.2022
Tampere University
Zsuzsa Millei is Professor of Early Childhood Education at the Faculty of Education and Culture. She has conducted research on different ways the nation appears in everyday life in institutions created for young children.

According to Millei, children are often viewed as apolitical, passively absorbing knowledge and following ways and values of adults. However, in her studies Millei has shown that through their acts, children are actively taking part in developing their national identities and reproducing the nation.

“By introducing the concept of ‘pedagogy of nation’ I aimed to demonstrate children’s active engagements with the nation. I showed how they learn national ways of being and perform emotions and attachments for their nation. I highlighted how they interpret and enact national stereotypes and myths and recreate all these as part of play.”

Millei remarks that children can express patriotism or resist national ideals and include and exclude by using national stereotypes that intersect with race, class, gender, and other cultural markers. Exclusions and discrimination are more frequent or forceful towards those who are deemed as different in multiple ways.

“These divisions sit uncomfortably with the reality of multicultural and globalizing societies today. Despite a transnational world, the nation-state remains the prime organizing political and social force.”

Millei deems researching childhood and nation very important today when nationalism is taking new and more exclusive forms.

“As I have shown, children are neither immune to nor remain a passive observer of these developments.”

Zsuzsa Millei's contact information