All SHCY members receive the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. Published three times a year, it features scholarly research and critical book reviews.

Recent Updates

Dec  17

CHC Episode 3: Ireland: Reading Childhood Comparatively

CHILDHOOD: History and Critique (CHC) is a series of interviews, commentary, and happenings in historical studies of childhood presented by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan, Kings University College at Western University, Canada.

Audio of Patrick Ryan’s Conversation with Mary Hatfield

Conversation Transcript
Transcript coming soon!

Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan
With the Irish Research Council and St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, the Society for the History of Children and Youth provided support for a conference on the history of childhood in Ireland in June, 2014. The conference drew over fifty papers covering an impressive diversity of issues, and offered four thought-provoking plenary lectures. Listen above to a conversation about it and the development of the field of childhood history in Ireland with one of the organizers, Mary Hatfield – Ph.D. Candidate at Trinity College, Dublin.

Organizers of "Twenty Years A-Growing" from left to right: Sarah-Anne Buckley, Mary Hatfield, Marnie Hay, Riona Nic Congail, and Gaye Ashford (another member - Jutta Kruse - not shown).

Organizers of “Twenty Years A-Growing” from left to right: Sarah-Anne Buckley, Mary Hatfield, Marnie Hay, Riona Nic Congail, and Gaye Ashford (another member – Jutta Kruse – not shown).

To prepare for the conference, I surveyed 40 peer-reviewed articles and chapters on Irish childhood history published over the previous decade and delivered a review of the literature. This reading and the conference experience left me with a few comparative observations. It also affirmed for me the value of reading childhood history comparatively across national boundaries.

About ten years ago there was a sustained increase in publications on Irish childhood history. The trend seems to be increasing every year. These efforts are interdisciplinary and predominantly focused on modern Ireland – that is familiar in other national contexts. Two narratives organize current Irish literature: (1) studies that tell a story of structural and institutional deprivation and mistreatment of Irish children since the mid-19th-century; (2) studies that explore the relationships between childhood, youth, and the politics of nationalism in late-19th- and 20th-century Ireland.1 I suspect continuing efforts will extend beyond these dominant concerns with deprivation and nationalism, yet (given my limited examination) there is room for more work on youth consumer culture & sports, educational institutions (outside of residential schools), the history of scientific ideas about childhood (outside of paediatrics).

This said, the current emphases in Irish historiography prepare fertile ground for considering important comparative issues. My attention was drawn to a familiar tension between modern ideals of childhood and the existence of workhouses (or poorhouses) in the mid/late 19th-century. Influenced by ideas about childhood conditioning and innocence, like other elites, many Irish leaders feared workhouses would “pauperize” children through association with the worst kind of adults. At the same time, Irish authorities held the prejudice that ordinary Irish homes were unfit to raise children by middle-class standards. Neither the family as it was, nor institutions as they had been previously built, were adequate. This dilemma (common in other nations) created the framework for a vast overhaul of childhood policy in the late-19th- and 20th-century.2

While the Irish shared key elements of a larger childhood-saving concern, their discourse developed unique features. There was a much stronger fear that practices such as foster care or “friendly visiting” (later professional casework) would be used to proselytize across confessional boundaries. Since, the Church exercised more influence over governmental policy and held a unique position within identity politics, the balance tipped decidedly toward building large Church-run institutions for children.3 As it is still said in Ireland, the poor or troublesome child was “sent to the laundries” – residential schools typically run by nuns. The rise of juvenile courts, legal adoption, foster care, the rationalization of “outdoor” relief, the professionalization of social work, and a multitude of structures that advanced middle-class childhood discourse over the past 150 years in North America and Great Britain did not have the same presence or timing in Irish childhood history.

You might say that the relationship between the child and the modern state captured by the Anglo-American doctrine of “the best interests of the child,” has been particularly contentious, and perhaps incongruous with primary features of Irish culture.4 This seems consistent with Caroline Skehill’s 2004 historical study of social work in Ireland, but the sources and consequences of this divergence are not obvious to me.5 If Ireland was different, was it due to an ability to maintain elements of master-servant childhood? What is the Pauline exhortation? Husband-wife, parent-child, master-servant are “one-flesh.”6 It is more than tantalizing to contrast this ancient doctrine with Ellen Key’s 1909 claim that “the century of the child” could only begin when humanity “abandoned the Christian point of view” and embraced the “holiness of generation.”7

Before going too far down this road, we might recall one of Ian Miller’s excellent points in his 2013 study of 19th-century Irish industrial schools and reformatories. Miller urged us to resist condemnation of the past or the propensity to see Irish childhood history only for what it lacked.8 If the Irish industrial schools and reformatories (founded upon confessional division and a jaundice view of family life) inflicted harm, it would not follow that other national histories offer rational policy alternatives, harmless “best-practices.” Taking this a step further, one might reconsider the narrative of trauma and survival fashioned to such popularity by the hyperbolic Frank McCourt. If taken as an axiom, the idea that nothing is so miserably heroic as Irish Catholic childhood forecloses other ways of reading the history of Irish childhood.9

When considering the lessons of childhood practices in Ireland, historians would do well to reflect on the prefiguring potential of the narrative of childhood trauma and survival. It has certainly framed the histories of childhood policy in other, purportedly more “modernized,” countries: Bernardo’s global farming out of “Home Children” from England to Australia and Canada; Charles Loring Brace’s orphan trains from U.S. eastern cities to the western states.10 Canada constructed a large residential school project to assimilate First Nation children in institutions run by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, paid for by the Federal Government. The Canadian assault upon indigenous culture, its humiliation and violence has been called “cultural genocide” recently. These projects, apologized for today, were once proudly advanced as means to human progress.11

A comparative perspective might call into question the idea that if only Irish childhood practices had caught-up sooner, all would have been better (or at least less miserable). So many practices advanced earlier and more thoroughly outside of Ireland have come under critical review and debate. These include the professional investigation of the poor, compulsory standardized education, the removal of children and youth from paid work, not to mention the massive pharmacological network framing the treatment of North American children and youth today.12

It seems to me that the medicalization of childhood policy, what André Turmel called “developmental thinking as a cognitive form,” was later and less comprehensively instituted in Ireland.13 Taking a comparative view, it is difficult to read this as simply a blessing or a curse, but it is clearly a significant point for analysis. The difference might have been related to what Robbie Gilligan reasonably names Ireland’s history as a “reluctant state.”14 Yet – here again – a comparative view complicates the matter. If we call Ireland a “reluctant state” (defining it by what it lacked), are we saying that modern childhood policy gains its unifying features by the triumph of a medical model? Do modern child-state relations have this sort of global essence? Or, might there be multiple reluctances among us? Might it be that states are apt to do many different things? If they have purposes at all, might these be temporary, contingent, protean, and divergent?

These questions are asked without denying that historians possess reasonably compelling ways to position the child-state relationship in particular places and times. It compresses too much, but we might say that in America, a reluctant state developed from late-18th-century Republican motherhood and the idea that insecurity and competition are necessary for developing manhood. These threads became aligned against church-state monopolies, but in the 20th-century they formed around certain bio-political techniques.15 The “reluctant” state in Ireland seems to have emerged from the growing monopoly of Church institutions in the 19th-century with a complex connection with Irish nationalist identity and developed different (perhaps less subtle and less effective) disciplinary regimes. Juxtaposing two quite divergent “reluctant” states should disrupt the notion that the child-state relation moves toward the realization of an essential form; the idea of progress (or decline) may serve reformers better than historians.

Taken to its logical conclusion, this genealogical reading of the past may move categories, cast doubts upon assumptions, and put us in a position of perpetual critique.16 Maybe it leaves us with nothing better than history and comparison, and calls us to read about childhood outside of our most familiar frameworks of time and place. To do so remains a laborious and risky thing. We are usually historians of a time, a place, a culture, before we are historians of childhood. Boundaries are not easily discarded, even if we sense that childhood is a discourse passing and shifting between eras – traversing state structures, and that it might be illuminated best upon a wide historical landscape.


 

1 This essay will focus on the first of these two lines of inquiry. In the literature on nationalism and identity, many articles documented the institutional histories of youth voluntary associations. A fine example is Marnie Hay, “The Foundation and Development of Na Fianna Éireann, 1909-16,” Irish Historical Studies v. 36, n. 141 (May 2008): 53-71. Others take a cultural studies approach, such as Ríona Nic Congáil, “Young Ireland and The Nation: Nationalist Children’s Culture in the Late Nineteenth Century,” Éire-Ireland v. 46 (Fall/Winter 2011): 37-62.

2 For a concise overview of part of this period with a useful bibliography see, Lindsey Earner-Byrne, “Reinforcing the family: The role of gender, morality and sexuality in Irish welfare policy, 1922-1944,” The History of the Family v. 13 (2008): 360-369.

3 Virginia Crossman, “Cribbed, Contained, and Confined?: The Care of Children under the Irish Poor Law, 1850-1920,” Éire-Ireland v. 44 (Spring/Summer 2009): 37-61.

4 This is a complex issue. See Moira J. Maguire and Séamas Ó Cinnéide, “‘A Good Beating Never Hurt Anyone': The Punishment and Abuse of Children in Twentieth Century Ireland,” Journal of Social History v. 38, no. 3 (2005): 335-352; Sarah-Anne Buckley, “Child neglect, poverty and class: the NSPCC in Ireland, 1889-1939 – a case study,” Saothar: Journal of the Irish Labour History Society (2008): 57-69; Maria Luddy, “The early years of the NSPCC in Ireland,” Eire-Ireland v. 44 (Spring/Summer 2009): 62-90; Mary E. Daly, “The primary and natural educator? The role of parents in the education of their children in independent Ireland,” Éire-Ireland v. 44 (Spring/Summer 2009): 194-217.

5 Caroline Skehill, History of the Present Child Protection and Welfare Social Work in Ireland (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004).

6 See Patrick Joseph Ryan, Master-Servant Childhood: a history of the idea of childhood in medieval English culture (New York: Palgrave, 2013).

7 Ellen Key, The Century of the Child (New York: Putnam, 1909): 3.

8 Ian Miller, “Constructing Moral Hospitals: Childhood Health in Irish Reformatories and Industrial Schools, c. 1851-1890,” in Growing Pains: Childhood Illness in Irish History, 1750-1950 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2013): 108.

9 The narrative of trauma and survival is highlighted on the first page and the jacket cover of Angela’s Ashes. Given in the authorial voice of the adult just prior to taking the child’s point of view, McCourt tells us that when he looks back on his “…childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes: a memoir (New York: Scribner, 1996).

10 Roy A. Parker, Uprooted: the shipment of poor children to Canada, 1867-1917 (Bristol: Policy Press, 2008); Alan Gill, Orphans of the Empire: the shocking story of child migration to Australia (Alexandra: Vintage Australia, 1997); Philip Bean and Joy Melville, Lost Children of the Empire: the untold story of Britain’s child migrants (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989).

11 On the Canadian aboriginal residential schools see Celia Haig-Brown, Resistance and Renewal: surviving the Indian residential school (Vancouver: Tillacum, 1988). See also this 1955 CBC news release.

12 Ansgar Allen, Benign Violence: Education in and beyond the Age of Reason (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); Michael Bourdillon et al eds., The Rights and Wrongs of Children’s Work (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010); Louise Armstrong, And They Call It Help: the Psychiatric Policing of America’s Children (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1993).

13 This is a general observation of my own, rather than a point of a particular study. The “medicalization of childhood” refers to an approach toward the lives of young people including policies, diagnostic tools and language, treatments systems, and more. For example, see Tom Feeney, “Church, State and Family: The Advent of Child Guidance in Independent Ireland,” Social History of Medicine v. 25, no. 4 (2012): 848-863.

14 Robbie Gilligan, “The ‘Public Child’ and the Reluctant State?” Eire-Ireland v. 44 (Spring/Summer 2009): 265-290.

15 The classic treatment of the establishment of bio-political techniques in the British and American situation is found in Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul: the shaping of the private self (London: Routledge, 1989).

16 See Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews edited by D.F. Bouchard (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977): 139-164; and Michel Foucault, “What is Enlightenment?” in The Foucault Reader edited by Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984): 32-50.

Mary Hatfield

About Mary Hatfield

Mary Hatfield is a Ph.D. Candidate at Trinity College, Dublin. She studies childhood and gender in Ireland during the nineteenth century.

Dec  17

Call for Nominations: Fass-Sandin Prize for Best Article

The Society for the History of Children and Youth (SHCY) is pleased to call for nominations for the best article in Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish on the history of children, childhood, or youth (broadly construed) published in 2012, 2013, and 2014 in a print or online journal. The SHCY will grant two awards. The prizes consists of a plaque and a check for $250. The winners will be announced at the SHCY conference in Vancouver 2015. Authors will be informed of the award prior to the conference, and it will be announced on the website. Nominations are invited from publishers, editors, scholars, and authors. Eligibility for the awards is based solely on the language in which the article is published, not on the residence or nationality of the author. Current members of the SHCY award committee, the executive committee, and officers of the society are ineligible.

Send a PDF or photocopy of the article to the chair of the prize committee, Bengt Sandin at Bengt.Sandin@liu.se. The deadline for nominations is March 1st, 2015. The other members of the committee are Ning de Conink Smith, and Ellen Schrumpf.

Nominations for Fass-Sandin Prize for the best articles in French and German will be announced in 2016 and in Italian and Spanish in 2017; each award will cover the three previous years.​

Dec  02

Journal of Popular Music Studies Special Issue on Girls and Popular Music

Guest editors: Sarah Dougher and Diane Pecknold
7,000-word articles due September 1, 2015

The Journal of Popular Music Studies invites submissions for a special issue on Girls and Popular Music. Beginning with the publication of Angela McRobbie’s work on the bedroom music culture of British girls, popular music has been a core aspect of the emergent field of girls’ studies. Conversely, attention to the musical practices of girls and to constructions of girlhood and female youth have revised our understandings of the ways popular music as a whole is produced and consumed. Kyra Gaunt’s discussion of the ways girls’ rhyming and chanting games reflect and reshape the same principles of black music-making as commercial hip-hop; Norma Coates’s suggestion that teenyboppers and groupies provided the foundational low Others against which rock culture secured its own credibility; and Gayle Wald’s interrogation of girlishness as a performative resource through which adult women’s position in popular music is established are only a few examples of critical role real and figurative girls play in shaping popular music and scholarly approaches to it.

In recent years, however, the relationship between girlhood and popular music has undergone significant shifts. The rapidly changing sphere of media and media access is often characterized as a threat to girls, both in terms of morality and productivity, but at the same time it offers them newly visible roles in the music economy as child stars, amateur musicians, and YouTube personalities. New technologies such as mobile recording, social media, YouTube, and blogging as well as new institutional structures, such as digital music distribution, the formalized tween music industry, and the rise of girl-serving organizations based on musicking call for a re-examination of the ways girlhood and female youth are constructed and experienced through popular music.
[Continue reading…]

Dec  01

CHC Episode 2: Teaching Childhood as Discourse for Professionals

CHILDHOOD: History and Critique (CHC) is a series of interviews, commentary, and happenings in historical studies of childhood presented by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan, Kings University College at Western University, Canada.

Audio of Patrick Ryan’s Conversation with Jonas Qvarsebo and Johan Dahlbeck

Conversation Transcript
Transcript coming soon!

Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan

Since 2011, each May sixteen students from Kings University College – Canada and Malmö University – Sweden have joined an international exchange seminar in the study of childhood.   Students travel to each other’s countries attend lectures on the history of social institutions and critical thought; we discuss a common set of readings.

Students and Faculty of the Kings-Malmo International Comparative Seminar in Childhood Study.  May, 2013 - London, Ontario.

Students and Faculty of the Kings-Malmo International Comparative Seminar in Childhood Study. May, 2013 – London, Ontario.

Admission to the program is competitive and drawn from the undergraduate programs in Childhood and Social Institutions at Kings, and within the Faculty of Education and Society at Malmö. The students’ professional paths lean toward the field of education – complimented by their interests in social work, law, and health care. The course provides an avenue for those headed into the helping professions to read and think about childhood more critically. For many of them, it provides their first opportunity to travel across the Atlantic. Much of the learning happens through the relationships between students. A number have made second-trips to Canada or Sweden building upon the friendships initiated by the seminar.

The seminar’s comparative readings, discussions, and lectures prompt students to reconsider their categories. Typically, English Canadians are at pains to distinguish themselves from Americans, but maintaining this winkle of identity in a situation where the Scandinavian-North American comparison is paramount becomes precarious to say the least. Even a brief introduction into Swedish social policy or educational practices makes the comparative weakness of social democracy in Canada obvious.
[Continue reading…]

Nov  12

CHC Episode 1: What to Make of Child-Saving Discourse?

CHILDHOOD: History and Critique (CHC) is a series of interviews, commentary, and happenings in historical studies of childhood presented by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan, Kings University College at Western University, Canada.

Audio of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Shurlee Swain

Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan

This summer British Airways interrupted my in-flight movie to ask for a charitable donation.  There we were, jet-setting at six kilometres above the earth, as a promotional video showed silken flight attendants and pilots walking a dusty road hand-in-hand with barefooted African children.  Seeing passengers fold-up their “High Life” magazines to toss a few dollars into a hat, while these images were projected upon rows of individualized screens, struck me as one of the world’s particularly absurd moments.

Several weeks later, I searched in vain for this video.  It may have vanished from cyber-space after a pilot took his own life amid allegations that he had molested children while participating in the Airline’s program; law suits have followed.  British Airways’ programs are hardly alone in providing a venue for the exploitation of children, anymore than child-rescue or child-saving discourse is incidental to larger structures of class, race, and globalization.[1]

The most troubling stories are simultaneously familiar and disorienting.  What to think?

Should we read ever popular child-saving campaigns for ideological concealment – as if they were like the happiness blankets offered in-flight to facilitate “deep, undisturbed sleep”?  This is part of the story. Companies hope to associate themselves and what they sell with progress and human well-being. Canada’s Free the Children calls their corporate sponsors “change makers,” “visionaries,” “champions,” “ambassadors,” and “friends” – valuable tributes for Allstate, Cineplex, Ford (and others) in a media saturated world.  But, there is more to it.  If We Day (proclaimed as a “rock concerts for social change”) feels like a “pep-rally”, it also features everything from the Dalai Lama to Justin Bieber. There must be more than one line of thought at work.
Barnardos
Consider Barnardos history of manipulation of childhood images. The photograph above created controversy in late 1999 by showing an infant injecting himself with heroine. The caption read, “Battered as a child, it was always possible that John would turn to drugs.  With Barnardo’s help, child abuse need not lead to an empty future.” The image was purportedly designed to raise consciousness and money for preventative programs for ‘at-risk’ youth.  Some publications refused to run it – arguing it was obscene. It doesn’t offend me, but it also does more than its producers say they intended. The image hails forth the possibility that a young adult addict remains in essence a person worthy of forgiveness and care – like a child. Though more caustic, its affect is similar to the substitutions used in Goebel Reeves‘ “Hobo’s Lullaby,” performed by both Woody and Arlo Guthrie. In these texts, the juxtaposition of image or melody and word begins to erase a distinction that child-saving discourse itself relies upon: the polarity between innocence and guilt, between purity and profanity. As they destabilize the line separating the saved from the damned, they propagate an unsettling feature of modern discourses of personal transformation – something akin to what Stanley Fish called “self-consuming artifacts.”[2]

If nothing else, the complexity of these texts foster thoughts and feelings that might move readers in opposing directions.  They produce conflict at least as much as they conceal it.  This is another reason to be careful with the concept of ideology.  As Mitchell Dean explains, the “objective of ideology critique is to unmask the ideological content of language to reveal real relations of subordination.”[3]  Ideology critique handles the power-knowledge relation by discounting not only multiplicity, but the possibility that culture produces who we ‘really’ are and how we “actually” relate.  If language is not a mask, but is the way we produce ourselves and our relations, then there is no pre-discursive “real” or “root” or “base” to be revealed.  Analysis should ask what texts do, not what they hide or uncover.

[Continue reading…]

This theme based on Green Stimulus by Salesforce CRM. Follow us RSS