Private Group active 2 years, 7 months ago

Critical Child and Youth Studies (Fall 2021)

The interdisciplinary study of childhood has emerged over the past three decades, primarily as a reaction to the past failure of the social sciences to take seriously the study of children and childhood and leaving the study of children and youth largely to the field of psychology. Some also say that the impetus for what is sometimes called the “new sociology/anthropology of childhood” can be traced to the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been adopted by all countries except the United States: ‘The interlocking Articles of the Convention offer children an internationally recognized set of rights that they can hold in independence of the interests and activities of the adults that directly surround them’ (Lee 2001, 92). But whatever the combination of forces was for the burgeoning of this interdisciplinary activity, it has become an important complement to the field of psychology. It often called “critical” childhood study because of a felt need to distance itself from the taken-for-granted, universalizing, views of childhood that have been dominant in the past, through a perspective of critique.

The seminar begins with an introduction to the social construction of childhood and to changing concepts of childhood and adolescence from a variety of historical periods, asking what we mean by “childhood” or “youth” and what is at stake in these definitions? We examine various historical models of childhood and how they survive in different degrees and combinations today, including the romantic child, the sinful child, the sacred child, the child as miniature adult and the developing child. As we do so, we will examine how our shifting—and often contradictory—conceptions of childhood both align and clash with the way children actually live.

We will also look at the ways in which age intersects with other dimensions of social experience: sex/gender, race, class, nation, and religion. In addition, we consider what young people do, how they live their lives and imagine their futures. In doing so we will discuss alternative theories to what has been called the “socialization” of children in order to recognize that children participate actively in society, not only constrained by the existing social structures and processes whereby society is reproduced but also contributing to it and changing it.

Finally, we will look at some childhood experiences that challenge the historically recent notion of a “protected” and “innocent” childhood, including child labor, child sex, and child criminals. We will examine how different institutions, discourses and systems shape how childhood is experienced: including family, school, media and consumer culture. While attending to the force of structural inequalities in cultural and economic arrangements, we will give equal attention to the methodological strategies used by various researchers and practitioners for working with rather than on or about children.

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