South Asian Childhoods Conference

Announcing: South Asian Childhoods: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives Conference
Australian National University, Canberra, July 18-19, 2013

CFP Deadline for Proposed Paper Abstracts: January 10, 2013 to Dr. Zazie Bowen or Jessica Hinchy


This workshop aims to provide an interdisciplinary platform for scholars studying diverse childhoods in South Asia. We also aim to enrich our understandings of contemporary children’s lives through historical perspectives.

When we consider that children are marginalized by age in relation to structures of power – as well as, caste, class and gender – they in fact constitute multiple subaltern groups. The critical interrogation of the concept of childhood and experiences of children is timely and important. Although there is intense theoretical and development interest in children in South Asia, children’s perspectives remain largely silent in political, social and economic debate. Where children are the subject of adult speculation in development discourses, impacts on the lives of real children are often surprisingly underrepresented. This workshop will locate children in important historical and social changes in contemporary India while foregrounding children’s stories and agency. We aim for a convergence of innovative ideas around childhood, recognizing that this category is contested and raises important dilemmas for inter-disciplinary studies.

This workshop will bring together previously disparate threads of different disciplinary approaches to children and childhood, allowing us within these two days to identify and develop convergences, conflicts, and aspects that may have been over-looked by one discipline, but explored in another. The conference aims to highlight the methodological implications of research into the perspectives and experiences of children.

Some of the dilemmas and themes to be explored include:

  • children’s experiences, voices and stories
  • universal versus multiple childhoods and the historical and culturalspecifities of conceptualizing childhood in South Asia
  • how we conceive of children’s agency in relation to structures of power
  • a critical interrogation of child rights discourse, and the gap between the rhetoric and reality of children’s participation
  • diverse childhoods across class and caste, with a particular focus upon marginalized children
  • how to methodologically approach children’s perspectives and experiences as adults and as scholars
  • experiences and discourses of gendered girlhoods and boyhoods
  • the significance of education in issues of social inequality, constructions of Indian nationalism and modernity.


Topics that papers could consider include, but are not limited to:

  • childhood and modernity, development and consumption amidst rapid social and economic changes
  • institutions of childhood, including schools, hostels, early infant welfare centers, orphanages and youth organizations
  • the anthropology of education, ideologies and styles of pedagogy, and children’s experiences and agency within the classroom
  • children and medicine (children’s understandings and experiences of illness and healing; discourses surrounding children and health)
  • children’s cultures (including play and friendship)
  • South Asian children’s literature and children’s representation in literature
  • gender and sexuality
  • children in families (including changing domesticities, family relationships and structures of power, and sibling-caretaking)
  • children and violence (domestic, communal and state)
  • children and work.


We invite proposals from various scholarly disciplines (including anthropology, history, sociology, law and justice studies, development studies, cultural and visual studies, etc), as well as representatives of organizations working specifically with issues surrounding youth and childhood.

Submission Guidelines

Please submit 200-300 word abstracts for proposed papers by January 10, 2013 to either Dr. Zazie Bowen or Jessica Hinchy.