Exploring the Phenomenology of Whiteness in a Swedish Preschool Class

Schwarz, E. & Lindquist, B.
International Journal of Early Childhood, 50:1–14


The article investigates how constructions of identity, race and differences exist and are challenged in a Swedish kindergarten. The purpose of the study is to investigate how kindergarten teachers manage and reflect on the construction of children’s social identity in kindergarten as an institution.


The authors discuss an event related to ethnic identity. The event began with a black child representing themselves as a white child in a self-portrait, and expressing that he wished he was white and blonde, like one of the other boys in the group. In the article, the authors address the kindergarten teachers’ reflections on this event. They discuss how ‘whiteness’ is presented, constructed and questioned by children and adults in kindergarten, which reveals a kind of institutional ‘colour blindness’. In this example, ‘race’ is brought to light, and the children make it visible as an existing category in their everyday lives. The children’s drawings and narratives show a lot about the implicit understandings and norms that surround them, which points to the kindergarten teacher’s responsibility to explore the opportunities and limitations that the kindergarten as an educational institution has to offer in order to manage these understandings.


The study is based on theories of phenomenology and critical whiteness. The data are retrieved from a large ethnographic study conducted in an ethnically diverse kindergarten. At the time the study was conducted, there were approximately 100 children aged 1–5 at the kindergarten. In this study, the authors have chosen to focus on a group of five children aged 5 years old and their three kindergarten teachers.


Schwarz, E. & Lindquist, B. (2018). “Exploring the Phenomenology of Whiteness in a Swedish Preschool Class”. International Journal of Early Childhood, 50:1–14.