Shaddai Tembo
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Personal profile



I am a Postgraduate Research Student at the University of the West of Scotland, I received an MSc with Merit in Social Science Research Methods (Sociology) from the University of Bristol. My undergraduate degree is a First Class BA (Hons) Education: Early Years from Bath Spa University. I am a former early years practitioner and have a  background in a range of nurseries. Most recently, I was a family support worker for a children’s centre in central Bristol.

I previously oversaw the Bristol Men in Early Years Network, am part of the Steering Group for the ESRC funded study ‘Gender Diversification in Early Years Education’ (, and the project. I am a Trustee for Early Education, I co-convene the SERA Early Years Network and write independently at

Current research activities

My research is provisionally titled: 'Heteronormativity in Early Childhood: Identifying how heteronormative practices are maintained, constrained, and can be disrupted in early childhood in Scotland, UK'.

Heteronormativity is a concept used to critique the hegemonic status of heterosexuality as a taken for granted, ‘natural’, and unquestionable norm. In recent decades a number of studies have provided important insight into what heteronormativity is and how it is experienced (Blaise, 2005; Robinson, 2013). These have tended to emphasise gender and sexuality as discursively constituted, and socially constructed phenomena, as evidenced in research focusing on children’s role-play games (Robinson and Diaz, 2006); marriage and family-play games (Blaise, 2005; Taylor and Richardson, 2005); and through ECEC practitioners (Gunn, 2008) as well as parents experiences (Gansen, 2017).

Yet, despite the wealth of literature on heteronormative practices in ECEC settings, recent studies show LGBT+ inequalities still exist, and are persisting (Equality Network, 2015; TIE, 2016). My research seeks to build on previous intellectual gains made during the poststructuralist turn and apply a sociomaterialist proposal toward heteronormativity and children’s play, drawing on data analysis from an ECEC setting in Scotland, UK. This prompts a manoeuvre away from understandings of childhood as a purely social phenomenon, and of heteronormativity as a stable and atemporal concept, towards rethinking childhood in terms of relational ontologies. This embraces a more expansive terrain where childhood experiences are comprised as much from non-human materialities as they are from human social interaction (Fox and Alldred, 2018; Olsson, 2009).

In resituating ontological concerns, heteronormativity is (re)conceived as a mobile assemblage of social and material meaning and practices (Hook and  Wolfe, 2018), no longer simply an abstract signifier but an act in itself capable of capturing the material-semiotic event. Such a move, I argue,  may provide valuable insight into how we might better understand how heteronormative practices serve to perpetuate discrimination against LGBT+ people.

External positions

Co-convener, SERA Early Years Network

Jan 2019 → …

Trustee , Early Education

Dec 2018 → …

Steering Group , Gender EYE (Gender Diversification in Early Years Education: Recruitment, Support and Retention

Oct 2018 → …

Steering group , MITEY Project (Fatherhood Institute)

Oct 2018 → …


  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • L Education (General)
  • Early Childhood


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