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Guest professor with a focus on global childhoods


Zsuzsa Millei is a new guest professor at the University of Gothenburg. Her research is focused on how children’s everyday life is entwined with politics, power and ideology.

Porträtt på Zsuzsa Millei.
Zsuzsa Millei.

– I am interested in child politics, children’s political agency, and the ways children’s everyday life is entwined with politics, power and ideology, says Zsuzsa Millei, professor in early childhood education at Tampere Universities and new guest professor at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning.

Zsuzsa Millei grew up in Hungary and migrated to Australia in 2000.  She took up doctoral studies in Perth and wrote her thesis about the politics of early childhood education in Western Australia from a historical perspective. She lived in Australia teaching and researching until 2015 when she moved to Finland to work as part of a Centre of Research Excellence. Later she was appointed as professor in early childhood education at Tampere Universities. Zsuzsa Millei has been also a visiting scholar in Slovenia, Germany, twice in Mexico, US, Hungary and South Africa. 

Different aspects of child politics

Zsuzsa Millei’s research is about different aspects of child politics. It has included the governance of early childhood education, children’s citizenship and children’s political agencies.

Currently, she explores politics and childhood in three projects. In one of them, the research team is collecting memories of childhoods in post-socialist states.

– Our interest was sparked by the misrepresentation in academic research of the socialist and post-socialist space and childhood. We often found in historical research arguments about children suffering from overly authoritarian schools, strict discipline and overwhelming political socialisation in state socialist countries. However, our childhood experiences told otherwise.

The research team collaborates closely with artists and has had several historical and art exhibitions as well as a play written from the memory archive created. All artworks and the memory archive are available on the webpage Cold War Childhoods.

Nationalism and childhood

Another project, recently in collaboration with the Global Childhoods network at the University of Gothenburg, explores nationalism and childhood.

– I am especially worried about the current climate of growing far-right and populist influence in politics and in governments across the world. We do not know enough about how neo-nationalist agendas and sentiments shape education policy and children’s everyday life. Politicians and media personnel can openly say racist and sexist slurs without any repercussion and those intensively shape public life as well.

Her newest funded project, the Microbial Childhood Collaboratory, brings together social theory and biological discoveries and aim to change how we think of children’s lives.

– The Covid-19 pandemic and the climate catastrophe have revealed childhood as much more than preparation for political and economic maturity. The current context necessitates the creation of new understandings of childhood as mutually beneficial and entangled relations of young humans both with other humans and with the global ecosystem. These communities sustain children’s lives and afford their agencies. As potential futures come to seem more about survival, limitation and interdependence, childhoods, politics and ethics need to be reimagined beyond existing terms.

Text: Carl-Magnus Höglund