JHCY Best Article Prize for 2016

From James Marten, JHCY, editor

The JHCY Best Article Prize selection committee (MJ Maynes, Rebecca Friedman, and Birgitte Soland) has selected the winner and one honorable mention for Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth Best Article Prize for 2016. The winner receives a certificate and $250.

Winner:
Sarah Walters: “’Child! Now You Are’: Identity Registration, Labor, and the Definition of Childhood in Colonial Tanganyika, 1910-1950”

Sarah Walters’ exceptionally well written article manages the trick of being both conceptually sophisticated and absolutely accessible to non-specialist audiences. Her article traces child labor in colonial Tanganyika over the first half of the 20th century and argues that the variations in and ambiguity of definitions of childhood had many repercussions, including the institutional inability to implement child labor legislation. At the same time, Walters explains, this lack of a singular definition of childhood meant that children could exert themselves and claim agency over their own economic futures by working and increasing their financial security. This complex view of colonial processes is one of the most impressive aspects of this multifaceted research piece. By using evidence from the archives including inspection reports, legislative debates, newspapers, and anthropological investigations, Walters aptly challenges the notion that western definitions of childhood were imposed on colonial subjects wholesale; rather what we find is the degree to which children and youth in colonial Tanganyika were able to act as somewhat autonomous agents, using western-oriented definitions and rules to their own advantage. In addition to its historical originality, this scholarship will be useful and stimulating to any reader intrigued with wider present-day discussions about empowerment, agency, and the politics of development and also about human rights – including children’s rights.

Honorable Mention:
Susan Miller: “Assent as Agency in the Early Years of the Children of the American Revolution”

This excellent article on children’s participation in the group Children of the American Revolution, which was affiliated with the Daughters of the American Revolution, does a marvelous job of offering complex and creative ways of approaching the question of agency in childhood studies. In particular, Miller complicates dichotomous understandings of agency by suggesting that there is a “continuum from opposition to assent” when it comes to children asserting themselves, rather that imagining agency as a simple matter of having it or not having it.

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