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Department Chair/Professor



Dr. Donna Varga is a Professor in the Child and Youth Study Department at Mount Saint Vincent University. Dr. Varga completed her BASc at Guelph in the area of Child and Family Studies. She received her MA and PhD in Toronto in the area of Sociology of Education including an emphasis on women’s studies and socio-cultural issues of child development, caregiving and play.

Currently, Dr. Varga is collaborating with Dr. Rhoda Zuk (English, MSVU) on a historical and contemporary study of portrayals of racism and innocence in children’s material culture.

Her teaching interests are in the areas of child development, early education, media, play, social issues of childhood, and women's studies.

Selected Publications and Conferences


Varga, D. (forthcoming). Imagining animal-human co-existence (or not) in children’s culture. Living with Animals Conference. March, 2017. Easter Kentucky University.

Varga, D. (forthcoming).  Imagining animal-human futures in children’s literature: The difficulty of the flamingo as grotesque other. Children’s Literature Association. June, 2017, Tampa, FL.

Varga, D. (forthcoming). White Pet/Black Beast: Possible and impossible animal-child innocence. International Research Society for Children's Literature. Congress 2017, Toronto, ON.

Varga, D., Willis, S., Thomey, L. (2016). From “I don’t belong here” to “It changed my life”  The necessity of critical hope in adult education. Atlantic Regional meetings of The Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education. Oct., Halifax, NS.

Varga, D., & Dempsey, V. (2016). Happy captives and monstrous hybrids: The flamingo in children’s stories (pp. 309-326). In M. Anderson (Ed.). Flamingos: Behavior, Biology, and Relationship with Humans. Nova Publishers.

Varga, D. (2014). Black Skin White Innocence: Idealizing Racist Children’s Book Culture. Twelfth International Conference on Books, Publishing and Libraries. Nov., Boston, MA.

Varga, D., & Zuk, R. (2013). Golliwogs and teddy bears: Embodied racism in children’s popular culture. Journal of Popular Culture, 46(3), 647-671.

Varga, D. (2012  ). Printed in More Innocent Times”: Racialized Innocence and Popular Understanding of Children’s Picture Books. Popular Culture Association. May, Boston, MA.

2011 Look-Normal: The colonization of childhood through developmental science. History of Psychology, 14 (2) 137-157.

2009 Gifting the bear and a nostaligic desire for childhood innocence. Cultural Analysis, 8, 71-88.

2009.  Teddy's bear and the transfiguration of savage beasts into innocent children, 1890-1920.  Journal of American Culture 32.2; 98-113.

2009.  Babes in the woods: Wilderness aesthetics in children's stories and toys, 1830-1915.  Society & Animals 17; 187-205.

Varga, D. (2009). Teddy Bear Culture: Childhood Innocence and the Desire for Adult Redemption. Popular Culture Association. April, New Orleans, LA.

2005.  Bringing Vygotsky to story time: Facilitating literacy through symbolic play development.  Early Childhood Education  36.2; 52-7.

Varga, D. (2005).Teddy bears and golliwogs: Innocence as discursive performance in racist children’s literature.  Children’s Literature Association Conference. June, Winnipeg, MB. 

Varga, D. (2005). Historical and contemporary contexts of racialized innocence in children’s book culture. Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing. July, Halifax, NS.  

Varga, D. (2004).Bear hugs: From “glory of the kill” to teddy bear’s picnic in childhood culture. Folklore Studies Association of Canada. May, Winnipeg, MB. 

Varga, D. (2003).For the love of children: idealizations of mother care. Association for Research on Mothering conference, Mothering and Work/Mothering as Work. May, Toronto, ON.

Varga, D & Zuk., R. (2003).Teddy bear’s best friend: The racial meanings of golliwogs in teddy bear popular culture.  Multiple Voices - Multiple Hands, The Multicultural Art Gallery & Khyber Centre for the Arts, conference on issues of race, ethnicity and anti-racism in popular culture and the visual arts. April, Halifax, NS.

2003.  The implications of individualistic play pedagogy for the zone of proximal development.  European Early Childhood Education Research Journal  11.2; 141-57.

2000.  Hyperbole and humor in children's language play.  Journal of Research in Childhood Education  14; 142-51.

2000.  History of early childhood teacher education.  In L. Prochner & N. Howe (eds.), Early childhood care and education in Canada: Past, present, and future (pp. 66-95). Vancouver, British Columbia: University of British Columbia Press.

1998.  The dynamics of children's alienated play.  The Canadian Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education  6.4; 313-26.

1998.  and Robert Lanning.  In support of working mothers?  Students of early childhood and issues of maternal employment.  Education and Society: International Journal in Education and Sociology  16.2; 17-30.

1997 Constructing the child: A history of Canadian day care.  Toronto: Lorimer Press.

1996.  Communicating the authority of child care expertise: Canada's School for Parents, 1942-1960.  Women's Studies in Communication  19.3; 335-353.