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Abstract

This thesis examines kindergarten teachers’ understandings of and reflections on care practices and early childhood education in China. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 25 kindergarten teachers, this thesis explores how the daily care is culturally grounded, gendered understandings of motherhood as the pinnacle of care influence the work of kindergarten teachers. While attempting to frame themselves as professional childhood educators, these kindergarten teachers push back against gendered understandings of care work as the “natural” domain of women, but simultaneously support gendered essentialism when they use motherhood as the model through which they understand the work of their colleagues and themselves. By comparing their care work as mothers and as educators, this thesis argues that these female kindergarten teachers are expected to provide selfless, loving motherly care by broader, hegemonic societal forces that they inadvertently take on.

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