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This article draws from field research performed in a Los Angeles preschool to explore the ways boys negotiate power, constructing identities that facilitate exclusion during imaginative play. Previous sociological research only discusses the female tendency to clique and exclude. This research ascertains that boys behave in similar ways. Imaginative play offers the rare opportunity for children to manipulate social status, something that is relatively stagnant in the rest of society. Authority is gained through creativity, a factor that is unique to children this age. In this study, to assert transient and momentary power, boys perform acts of exclusion. Power is exercised on the playground as a socially situated phenomenon that depended on children acknowledging the imaginative realms. The existence of those realms offered change to the hierarchies evident in the preschool’s social-real realm. Because every child possessed power in different imaginative games, this research illuminates that children not only learn exclusion through the very act of being excluded, but through the influential performance of exclusion of others.


Lauren Lee earned distinction for her senior comprehensive project.

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