RECE Lines in Time and History
1 9 9 0 | k n o x v i l l e
Amos Hatch and Richard Wisniewski of the University of Tennessee, organized a conference called "Qualitative Research in Early Childhood Education." There were approximately 30 presenters, and another 30 people or so in attendance. The topic and format of the conference proved to be so stimulating and satisfying that many of us in attendance wished the experience could be repeated someday, someplace. Future RECErs at the Knoxville conference included (in addition to Amos Hatch) Daniel Walsh, and Joe Tobin.
1 9 9 1 | m a d i s o n
Mimi Bloch, of the University of Wisconsin, and a group of her past and current doctoral students, organized the first "Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Educational Research and Practice" conference. The organizing group included Chelsea Bailey, Jan Jipson, Shirley Kessler, Beth Blue Swadener, Mary Hauser, Daniel Walsh, and Susan Adler. The conference, which drew 80 people, was so successful that we agreed to do it again someplace the next year. (link to report on first conference). At this point, the conference was drawing mostly from the Midwest, but with contingencies from elsewhere also-- University of Illinois (Daniel Walsh, Bud Spodek, Deb Ceglowski, and Robin Leavitt (Illinois Ph.D.; Asst. University of Northern Illinois), University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (Sally Lubeck), Kent State (Beth Blue Swadener), National Louis University (Shirley Kessler), Roosevelt University (Nancy Nordmann), Carroll College (Mary Hauser), the University of Hawaii-Manoa (Joe Tobin, Rich Johnson), Kathryn Borman (University of Cincinnati), and Amos Hatch (University of Tennesee). Some of those attending the first conference had met through the American Anthropological Society (Council on Anthropology and Education--Tobin, Bloch, Walsh, Swadener, Borman, Lubeck) while others had met at the American Education Research Association meetings, or at the Bergamo Conference focusing on critical curriculum theory (Ayers, Silin, Jipson, Bloch, Kessler, Swadener and others). The conference was modeled somewhat off of the Bergamo conference format--small, intimate, drawing on a range of critical theories/methodologies and disciplines still atypical, or in the "margin" of theory/research/policy/practices in ECE at that time in the USA.
1 9 9 2 | c h i c a g o
The conference moved to Chicago, with sponsorship from University of Illinois-Chicago, National-Louis, University of Illinois-Chicago Circle and Roosevelt. The host and planning committees included Bill Ayers, Chelsea Bailey, Mimi Bloch, Mary Hauser, Jan Jipson, Shirley Kessler, Mari Koerner, Michael O'Loughlin, Beth Blue Swadener, Joe Tobin, and Daniel Walsh. The word "theory" was added to the title ("Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education: Research, Theory, and Practice"). The conference theme was "Reclaiming the Progressive Agenda." Ohio State made its first appearance, in the persons of David Fernie and Rebecca Kantor, Wayne State, (Navaz Bhavnagri), Minnesota-Duluth (Betsy Quintero), Northern Iowa (Linda Fitzgerald) and St. Cloud State (Jeffrey Tabakin). Non-Westerners began to show up in bigger numbers--Michael O'Loughlin from Hofstra, Becky New and Bruce Mallory from New Hampshire, Leigh O'Brien from Nazareth College, Jonathon Silin from Bank Street, and Joe Tobin, Rich Johnson, and Donna Grace from Hawaii (who win the prize for traveling the farthest to get to the conference). For the second year in a row, DAP remained a hot topic for reconceptualizing critique. Sue Bradekamp (of NAEYC) showed up to defend the "Green Book" and try to understand and eventually incorporate our criticisms.
1 9 9 3 | a n n a r b o r
Sally Lubeck played host and Mary Hauser, Michael O'Loughlin, and Jonathon Silin were the program committee for the third "Reconceptualizing" conference. New blood from new locations once more was added, including Nancy Melzoff from Williamette, Sue Grieshaber and Gail Halliwell from Queensland Institute of Technology, Glenda MacNaugton from Melbourne, Vi McLean from Arizona State West and Margaret Clyde (New Zealand), Lisa Goldstein from Stanford, Valerie Polakow (Eastern Michigan), Tina Lozano and Jan Jipson from Sonoma State, and Rick Meyer and colleagues from Nebraska. The East Coast delegation continued to grow, with Celia Genishi and Rebecca Fassler from Teachers College, and a big Bank Street group suggested to attend by Jonathan Silin. Qualitative research methods, feminist and gay perspectives, and, especially, poverty and advocacy are the major conference concerns. Tensions this year (as in previous years) included the balance of program emphasis on research and theory versus social justice and political action.
1 9 9 4 | d u r h a m [ n h ]
We took a chance of alienating our Midwest base by heading East. Becky New and Bruce Mallory, of University of New Hampshire were the host committee; Robin Leavitt and Jonathan Silin took the lead on the program. Newcomers who would become conference regulars included Gaile Canella of Texas A&M, Celia Genishi, Leslie Williams and Sharon Ryan of Teachers College, and Judith Bernhard of Ryerson Polytechnic (in Canada). Poverty continued as a major conference theme. New themes included full inclusion of children with disabilities, sexuality, and international/cross-cultural perspectives. Controversies included the question of whether the conference call, which included phrases such as "queer theory" and "performance studies," served to uninvite/alienate people who see themselves as more in the middle than on the radical edges of the field of early childhood education. Should the conference reflect the full range of opinion in early childhood education, or should it welcome only those who are pursuing critical, progressive, and cutting-edge perspectives?
1 9 9 5 | s a n t a+r o s a
Having moved East the year before, the concensus was to go West. The peripatetic Jan Jipson (who was back in the Midwest at Carroll College by the time the conference occured) joined her old colleagues at Sonoma State as conference hosts. Rich Johnson of Hawaii was the program chair. Newcomers destined to return included Larry Prochner of Concordia (Canada), Kerri-Ann Hewett and Julie Kaomea Thirugnanum of Hawaii, Kim Whaley of Ohio State, Mary Gonzalez-Mena of Napa Valley College, Pat Monighan-Nourot of Sonoma State, Stuart Reifel of Texas, and Linda Levine of Bank Street. Key themes included critiques of the dominance of developmental theories in ECE and post-colonial and Marxist perspectives on the field. The move to the West Coast, like the move to New England the year before, diversified the conference membership without reducing overall numbers. As usual, we drew around 90 people, this time with more from the Pacific Rim, but still with a good showing from the Midwest and East Coast.
1 9 9 6 | m a d i s o n
We returned to our roots, with a second Reconceptualizing Conference in Madison. Mimi Bloch again was host chair. Rich Johnson once again headed up the program committee. Newcomers included Cary Buzzelli of Indiana, Claudia Burns of Wisconsin, Glen DeVoogd of Houston, and Mindy Ochsner and Mary Malter of Teachers College. Betsy Cahill and Rachel Thielheimer, who have been to the conference before, this time came as University of New Mexico faculty. The New York (Bank Street/Teachers College) delegation was once again large, but it was the big Hawaiian and Australian numbers which were most striking and surprising, considering the conference' Midwestern American origins and location). Key themes included disability and inclusion, representation (of children and childhood), resistance (of children to adults, practitioners to various forms of authority, and of Reconceptualizers to DAP, Reggio, and other popular movements) and identity (cultural, professional, gendered). Meeting controversy: Does the use of post-structural theory and language in our presentations work to discourage practitioners and other ECErs who are not already familiar with the terms and concepts? This debate reflected an even more fundamental issue: Should our conference be thought of as a place for scholars and practitioners to meet, or is it at heart an academic meeting (albeit one with a difference)?
1 9 9 7 / 9 8 | h o n o l u l u
Hawaii was rewarded for years of perfect attendance by getting to host the conference. To take advantage of the opportunity for Mainlanders to escape winter weather, the conference was held in January. In keeping with the logic of the move to the middle of the Pacific, participation was encouraged from Asia and the Pacific. First time attendees included delegations from New Zealand (Waikato), Hong Kong (Institute of Education) and New Mexico State. Gender and the body, politics of culture, and the workings of colonialism were major conference themes, with a highlight being a Maori chant in response to the native Hawaiian presentations.

1 9 9 9 | o h i o> s t a t e
2 0 0 0 | b r i s b a n e> [ a u s t r a l i a ]
2001 |NYC-Bank St, NYU, TC-Columbia USA (Oct.)
2002 | perhaps no conference?
2003 |ASU, Phoeniz, Ariz (Jan. 2003) USA
2004 | Olso > Norway (May, 2004)
2005 | Madison, WI, USA (Oct. 2005)
2006 | Rotorua, New Zealand (Dec. 2006)
2007 | Hong Kong China (Dec., 2007)
2008 | Victoria, BC Canada (June, 2008)
2009 | Bethlehem City, Palestine (June, 2009)
2010 | Dalton State, GA, USA (Oct 2010)
2011 | London, UK (Oct 2011)

Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education: A Brief Introduction
The reconceptualist movement in early childhood education gained momentum in the 1980s with conversations among scholars around the world who were concerned about the dominance of psychology and child development theory and drew from an array of more critical, feminist and postmodern perspectives in their work. Such reconceptualist scholars, like those in other fields, question the belief that scientific truths could be “discovered” about any individual or group of children and then applied to all children, no matter the culture, language, belief structure, or physical life circumstances. In other words, the early work from reconceptualists in our field questioned the promotion of universal prescriptions for “best practice” and other “grant narratives” which continue to dominate our field. Many of us were doing anti-bias or cultural and gender focused research that seeks to appreciate and support diversity in people, ideas, and ways of being. We share a concern about privileging particular sets of beliefs or forms of knowledge (or “grand narratives” that typically reflect western or Eurocentric values), which can create power for certain groups of people and oppress others.
Much of the early U.S. reconceptualist scholarship (e.g., Kessler & Swadener, 1992, Swadener & Kessler, 1991) challenged the NAEYC Guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practice, charging that the perspective was ethnocentric and ignored the range of life contexts and knowledges experienced by children from diverse cultural, ethnic, linguistic and value contexts, such as individualistic orientations or connectedness of people as cultural ways of knowing (Cannella, Swadener & Che, 2007). This relates to scholarship focusing on how are created for some groups of people while “others” are judged and disqualified as lacking or labeled as disadvantaged or “at risk,” documenting patterns of power and privilege. These concerns have been addressed using different methods and forms of critique, including qualitative research that attends to the voices of people who are often under-represented or work done by members of thee groups, historical genealogy, theory juxtaposition and critical personal narrative.
Earlier work addressing power and privilege related to poverty and the lives of young children (e.g., Polakow, 1993, 2007) and more recent work addresses a range of issues that include contradictions and challenges in indigenous education (e.g., Kaomea, 2003), the colonization of early childhood education through universal prescriptions for “quality” (e.g., Dahlberg, Moss & Pence, 1999); and “decolonizing” methodologies (e.g., Mutua & Swadener, 2004; Soto & Swadener, 2005). Researchers have also demonstrated children’s recognition of colonialist binaries (e.g., Tobin, 2000), feminist methodologies and gender issues (e.g., Hauser & Jipson, 1998; Mac Naughton, 2000), and possibilities for transformational early childhood practices in global context (e.g., Ryan & Greishaber, 2005), just to name a few. Still other reconceptualist scholars have worked with metaphor, including Lobman (2005), using improv (theatre) as metaphor and practice for interactions between caregivers and infants and toddlers.
Partly in response to frustrations in finding appropriate outlets for dissemination of reconceptualist work in conferences and journals, the first Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Research, Theory and Practice Conference (RECE) was held in Madison, Wisconsin in 1991. Since that time, conferences have been held in locations across the U.S. and in Australia, Norway, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Canada. Recent meetings have drawn participants from over 15 countries and reconceptualists in France have held their own conferences. In 1999, a Critical Perspectives on ECE special interest group was founded within the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Several publishing companies now devote an entire series to Reconceptualizing early childhood education scholarship (e.g., Peter Lang, Routledge and Palgrave-Macmillan) and many of us have published in a range of journals and implemented various forms of critical practice in education and public policy work. The range of scholarship, activism, and involvement in Reconceptualizing has provided new forms of praxis (reflective practice) in the field of early childhood education, as reflected by other articles in this special issue.
Reconceptualist scholars see a compelling need for this work in the context of recent public policy practices in the U.S. as well as around the world. Neoliberal policies such as welfare “reform” in the U.S. and the UK have been critiques by reconceptualists (e.g., Bloch, Holmlund, Moqvist & Popkewitz, 2003) and U.S. legislative mandates like No Child Left Behind in 2001, Smart Start, and the National Research Council report on Scientific Research in Education demonstrate the ways that prevailing beliefs about child, family and education/care practices are linked to socio-political agendas that prescribe every narrower regimes of “truth” or masterscripts on our field.
Reconceptualist perspectives and methodologies are oriented to and argue for “Hope and possibility as we move toward a newly evolving, liberating ‘third space,’ an early childhood dreamscape of social justice and equity” (Soto, 2000, p. 198). Many of us believe that to ensure an equal and emanicipatory early childhood education for both children and adults, all educators who are concerned about children and the future of humanity and our work, practitioners and theorists, teachers and parents, reconceptualists and developmentalists, must join together and take action in solidarity.
Bloch, M., Holmlund, K. Moqvist, I., & Popkewitz, T. (Eds.). (2003). Governing children, families, and education: Restructuring the welfare state. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Cannella, G.S. (1997). Deconstructing early childhood education: Social justice and revolution. New York: Peter Lang.
Cannella, G.S., Swadener, B.B., & Che, Y. (2007). Entry: Reconceptualizing early childhood education. In R. New (editor), International Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Education.
Dahlberg, G., Moss, P. & Pence, A. (1999). Beyond quality in early childhood education and care: Postmodern perspectives. London: Falmer Press.
Hauser, M. & Jipson, J.A. (Eds.). (1998). Intersections: Feminisms/early childhoods.New York: Peter Lang.
Kaomea, J. (2003). Reading erasures and making the familiar strange.EducationalResearcher (add rest of ref)
Kessler, S. & Swadener, B.B. (Eds.). (1992). Reconceptualizing the early childhood curriculum: Beginning the dialogue. New York: Teachers College Press.
Lubeck, S. (1985). Sandbox society: Early schooling in black and white America.London: Falmer Press.
Mac Naughton, G. (2000). Rethinking gender in early childhood. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.
Mutua, K. & Swadener, B.B. (2004). Decolonizing research in cross-cultural contexts: Critical personal narratives. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Polakow, V. (1993). Lives on the edge: Mothers and their children in the “other” America.Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ryan, S. & Grieshaber, S. (Eds.). (2005). Practical transformations and transformational practices: Globalization, postmodernism, and early childhood education.
Soto, L.D. (Eds.) (2000). The politics of early childhood education. New York: Peter Lang.
Soto, L.D. & Swadener, B.B. (2005). Power and voice in research with children. New York: Peter Lang.
Tobin, J. (2000). Good guys don’t wear hats: Children’s talk about the media. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.