Of routine consideration: ‘Civilising’ children’s bodies via food events in Swedish and English early childhood settings

Deborah Albon, Anette Hellman

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Inspired initially by Elias’s (1994) work on ‘civilising processes’, this article draws on a project in which an English and a Swedish researcher examine ethnographic data on mealtimes from two of their respective studies undertaken in early childhood settings. Despite the differing contexts, the data show a marked similarity in the way children’s bodies become subject to ‘civilising’ during mealtimes. The article contends that mealtimes are times of the day when young children’s bodies are subject to a high degree of disciplining when compared to the ‘free’ play elements of the day. Using the concept of ‘over civilising’, we explore these processes, which are underpinned by a pervasive construction of young children’s bodies as ‘unruly’, in need of ‘civilising’ and bringing under control. Whilst this impacts on how educators are ‘expected’ to manage mealtimes in their settings, the data show how children negotiate, appropriate and resist these ‘body rules’.

© 2018, published by Taylor and Francis. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Ethnography and Education, uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link below. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthnography and Education
Early online date10 Jan 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jan 2018


  • Mealtimes, early childhood, ethnography, civilising the body, Elias

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