CHC Episode 16: Childhood and Politics

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.

The eighth biennial conference of the Society for the History of Children and Youth, held at the University of British Columbia, included approximately 240 delegates and over 60 panels. SHCY’s conferences have always been well-organized, sporting a diverse range of research papers, but I was especially impressed by the quality and volume of graduate student work (around 45 papers).

UBC Colleagues and SHCY conference conveners Mona Gleason, Tamara Myers, and Leslie Paris
UBC Colleagues and SHCY conference conveners Mona Gleason, Tamara Myers, and Leslie Paris

SHCY 2015 marked the conclusion of James Marten’s Presidency (2013-2015), and the inauguration of Mona Gleason’s term (2015-2017). At the business meeting, members raised two perennial questions for the organization: (a) How can we continue to advance graduate student participation in the field of childhood history? (b) How might we encourage paper and article submissions on periods before the 19th-century, and outside North America?

The Society has relied upon at least three mechanisms to address these persistent issues:

(1) Representation in decision-making: The Society’s executive board and the Journal’s editorial board are occupied by a diverse, international set of scholars. Our conference, prize, outreach, website, and other committees are purposefully diverse. At SHCY 2015 we voted to add a second graduate student representative to the Society’s executive.

(2) Raising and redistributing funds: Our ability to offer conference stipends to students (given their numbers) probably falls short of the existing needs. In addition to our primary dependence on membership dues, some members have made significant donations. It seems to me doing more would require an effort to raise funds outside of our own ranks.

(3) Supporting events internationally and recognizing non-English works: SHCY has held conferences in the U.S. (on both coasts and the Midwest), Canada, England, and Sweden. We have also sponsored conferences and other events in North America and Europe. The Society’s Fass-Sandin prizes celebrate excellence in non-English research within childhood history.

It seems to me there are limits to what any organization can do to attract temporally and regionally diverse research to its venues. As with previous years, volumes 7-8 of the Journal (2013-15), emphasized the post-WWII period – 19 of 37 articles. A fifth of the articles dealt with periods prior to the 20th-century, but none were from medieval or ancient times. Half of the articles focused on North America and about 16% on Western Europe. This said, the residential range of contributors has grown; the proportion of authors residing outside Canada and the U.S. tripled from 14% to 46% from 2011 to 2015. Of course, the contents of peer-reviewed journal’s cannot (should not) be manipulated simply to fit organizational goals. As Jim Marten pointed-out, the above figures reflect the distribution of quality submissions received – and this is dependent on the decisions and abilities of researchers. A forthcoming special issue on Ireland was made possible by particular scholars studying and organizing in that country. SHCY and JHCY can only communicate that a wide spectrum of historical work on childhood and youth is welcome.

Conference location is another practical way that the Society has made itself accessible to an international mixture of scholars. Next time, the meeting will move 5,000 kilometres from the west coast of North America to the east. The executive board accepted a proposal from Susan Miller of the Department of Childhood Studies to host SHCY 2017 at Rutgers University – Camden. The business meeting included an extended discussion of the advantages and challenges of holding the 2019 meeting in Australia or Europe. As with the contents of the Journal, this is not a simple issue. A given location will always be more favourable for some than others. Where we are able to go depends upon who is willing and able to propose hosting a conference like SHCY. Clearly, our effort to establish an international organization would be greatly advanced if we could continue to find venues outside of North America one out of three times.

As with previous SHCY business meetings members discussed additional initiatives that might help the Society continue to engage the vast temporal, theoretical, linguistic, and cultural diversity that one finds in the historical study of childhood. All of these ideas require volunteer labour and/or fund-raising success to materialize. We might increase our collaborations with other organizations and further utilize multi-media the way CHC has during the 2014-15.

We might establish work-groups within the Society (girlhood studies, literature, early-modern Europe etc.). In other academic organizations, work-groups are supposed to encourage the assembly of conference panels or proposals for special issues within journals in targeted areas. Often the larger organization sets aside space and time at the conferences for them. Some working-groups hold events outside their parent conferences at locations well suited to their members. As with several of the ideas mentioned above, work-groups are a means for welcoming scholars to shape the Society as they see fit. It is upon us to make the proposals and complete the necessary work.

Karen Dubinsky and Mona Gleason just prior to SHCY Keynote Lecture
Karen Dubinsky and Mona Gleason just prior to SHCY Keynote Lecture

The Keynote – The Politics of Childhood

Karen Dubinsky delivered the keynote address – “The Politics of Childhood Meets the Children of Politics: Cuban Literacy Teachers Revisit their Youth” – for SHCY 2017. Her presentation was a visual feast. You can view and listen to it by clicking here or pasting the following URL into your browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jki7jr9tfQU

Dubinsky outlined six categories of representation after years of examining political images of childhood around the world. In her talk she summarizes (an shows) them as:

1) Children in War and Peace
2) Revolution and National Liberation (or Mother, Child, and the Gun)
3) Elections and Political Parties
4) Social Welfare & Development
5) Children’s Issues
6) Children as Political Actors

See her related commentary on these themes in her 2012 article, “Children, Ideology and Iconography,” (JHCY vol. 5, no. 1). As her title suggests, the balance of Dubinsky’s talk focused on the sixth category – children as political actors. She closely documented the engagement of children and youth as teachers in the revolutionary Cuban literacy program during the early 1960s, and gave attention to the memories and reports of participants during a celebration of it fifty years later.
Dubinsky offered three questions for us to consider about the politics of childhood.

1) What are the historical circumstances that produce children with self-consciousness of their political selves (political duties, responsibilities, or desires)?

2) What would happen to the adult-child binary if we widened our imagination about children and political citizenship or political capabilities?

3) What would our image archive look like if the full spectrum of political actors were represented? (images of children as political actors are relatively rare)

*Concluding Note – this is the final episode of season 1 of “Childhood: History & Critique.” We are working to organize a second season with new hosts for the 2015-16 year. All the Best, Pat.

 

Books By Karen Dubinsky

Karen Dubinsky, Adele Perry and Henry Yu (eds.) Within and Without the Nation: Transnational Canadian History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, forthcoming 2015.)

Karen Dubinsky, Sean Mills, Scott Rutherford (eds.) Canada and The Third World: An Historical Introduction (in process)

Caridad Cumana, Karen Dubinsky and Xenia Reloba (eds.) My Havana: The Musical City of Carlos Varela (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014)

Karen Dubinsky, Caridad Cumana and Xenia Reloba (eds) Habáname: La Ciudad Musical de Carlos Varela (La Habana, Centro Pablo de la Torriente Brau, 2013)

Babies Without Borders: Adoption and Migration Across the Americas(University of Toronto Press and New York University Press, 2010)

Karen Dubinsky, Catherine Krull, Susan Lord, Sean Mills and Scott Rutherford (eds.) New World Coming: The Sixties and the Shaping of Global Consciousness (Toronto: Between the Lines Press, 2009)

The Second Greatest Disappointment: Honeymooning and Tourism at Niagara Falls (Toronto: Between the Lines and New Brunswick New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, May, 1999)

Improper Advances: Rape and Heterosexual Conflict in Ontario, 1880-1929 (University of Chicago Press, 1993) Book in progress: Children, Ideology, Iconography: How Babies Rule the World

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Feminism and the Politics of Childhood

Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or foes?
Workshop at UCL Institute of Education, London, UK, 16-17th November 2015

This workshop will bring together community- and university-based academics and activists to unpack perceived conflicts between children’s interests and women’s interests (which themselves are heterogeneous) and, more broadly, intersections and antagonisms between various forms of feminism and the politics of childhood.

The lives of women and children are deeply entangled and the way relations between them are conceptualized has implications for approaches to service provision, public education, and social movement building about critical issues including childcare, domestic work and global care chains, familial violence, and the division of labor. Children, to varying degrees, are positioned as primarily dependent and in need of care, and women take by far the greatest responsibility for this, whether in families, education, formal care settings, global care chains, and so on. Women and children have often been elided or linked ideologically. Both feminist and childhood scholars and activists have worked against this conflation, but, in so doing, have been criticized for portraying women and children’s interests as opposing and adversarial (Thorne, 1987). Feminist scholars have argued that prioritizing children’s rights has led to increases in women’s ascribed responsibilities for children’s wellbeing (Molyneux, 2006; Newberry, 2014) and that rising attention to “the child” in the policy arena has side-lined women’s citizenship demands (Dobrowolsky and Jenson, 2004). Childhood theorists have commented that feminism is an “adultist” enterprise, rendering children largely absent from the social world and sociological consideration except as objects of social reproduction (Mayall, 2002). Concerns have been raised that this antagonism reduces the complexity of adult-child relations – which include joy, love, reciprocal concern, and solidarity – solely to that of work and burden (Riley, 1987).

Until now, there has been limited attention to the ways these perceived antipathies might be addressed (but see Alanen, 1994; Burman, 2008; Oakley, 1994; Thorne, 1987). We propose to use this workshop as a means to initiate such a dialogue. We are inviting abstracts which address the following, or other relevant, themes:
• How do we ensure the well-being of children and women, particularly in contexts where their interests may (appear to) be in conflict?
• How might a conversation between feminism and the politics of childhood reconcile these tensions?
o Are women’s and children’s interests necessarily opposed or inevitably linked?
o What are the consequences of denaturalizing motherhood and childhood for women and children?
o How do we conceptualize women and children’s involvement in creating a gendered and generationed social order?
• What are the implications of theorizing women and children together?
o Does discussing women and children together reify their relationship?
o Where do men, the state, and society fit?
o To what extent does this reinforce compulsory heterosexuality?

To promote in-depth discussion and debate, workshop spaces will be limited to a small number of presenters and participants. Working papers of no more than 4000 words will be pre-circulated. At the workshop, each presenter will give a short synopsis which will be followed by discussion. We anticipate producing an edited volume from the workshop. All participants (including presenters) will be charged a nominal fee of £20.

To apply to present: Please send titles and abstracts of no more than 250 words to r.rosen@ioe.ac.uk by 15th August 2015 (Subject line: PRESENTER Feminism and Childhood). Full papers will be due 26th October 2015.

To apply to participate: If you wish to participate in the workshop as a non-presenter, please submit an expression of interest of no more than 250 words outlining relevant academic and/or community-based experience to r.rosen@ioe.ac.uk by 30th September 2015 (Subject line: PARTICIPANT Feminism and Childhood).

Hosted by the Childhood and Gender Stream (Social Science Research Unit) and Gender and Sexuality Studies, UCL.

2014 Grace Abbott Prize Winner Announced!

The committee charged with selecting the 2014 Grace Abbott Prize for Best Book published in 2013—E. Wayne Carp (chair), Steve Mintz, and Ishita Pande—have selected the following book:

Daniel Rivers, Radical Relations: Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children in the United States since World War II.

The committee says this about the book: Daniel Winunwe Rivers’s Radical Relations demonstrates that scholarly rigor, an exhaustive research agenda, and deep historiographical engagement can be transformed into a powerful social history compelling for broad audiences. Rivers masterfully reveals the historical context for the current spotlight on the modern struggle for family and domestic rights by GLBT people. Moreover, by putting the parent-child relationship at the center of this book, Rivers tells a history, both disturbing and hopeful, that successfully challenges a long-standing assumption that same-sex orientation excludes an investment in parenting. Living under the constant threat of losing custody of their children if their own true sexuality was discovered, GLBT parents fought for parental rights through the legal system, the creation in the 1970s of a nationwide grassroots network of lesbian mothers, and the subsequent national organizations of gay fathers. In the end, Radical Relations is a model for a growing dialogue between the history of childhood, family history, the history of gender and sexuality, and GLBT history.

Rivers is an assistant professor of history at The Ohio State University. He will receive a plaque and $500.​

Guest Post: Rachel Remmel on the Graded School in 19th Century Boston

In this blog post, Rachel Remmel places her forthcoming article, “The Spaces of the Schoolhouse and the City: Gender and Class in Boston Education, 1830-1832,” in its historical and historiographical contexts. Remmel is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. Her research focuses on school architecture and museum history, both institutions intended to transmit and shape values. Her book project is The Origins of the American School Building: Boston Public School Architecture, 1789–1860.

This article represents part of my larger book project, which explores why, in 1847, Bostonians developed the graded school, which divides students by age and ability into small, individually taught classrooms. This model is so ubiquitous and familiar within the United States that it is difficult for many to envision that there were ever alternatives. Yet the graded school was not inevitable, and the first half of the nineteenth century was a time of widespread experimentation with school organization. In order to understand the success of the graded school, it is important to understand what problems Bostonians thought it solved and what drawbacks the alternatives presented. The failed reforms of 1830-1832 represent a clear snapshot of both the problems Bostonians perceived and the drawbacks of one alternative reorganization.

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People & Things on the Move: Migration and Material Culture

People & Things on the Move: Migration and Material Culture

We seek papers for a workshop to be held May 13-15, 2015 dedicated to exploring the relationship between migration and material culture in the modern world (the 18th century to the present), sponsored by the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. We welcome paper proposals from both academics (including advanced graduate students) and practitioners—historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, public historians, librarians, archivists, and museum curators—who are working on the intersection between migration and material culture in any region of the world. We hope that selected papers will be published as a special issue or forum for the American Historical Review.

Both migration and material culture have profoundly shaped societies and cultures across the globe in the modern era. This workshop will define migration broadly, to include intra-state, international and intra-imperial migration, as well as “forced” and “voluntary” migrations. Our use of material culture is also inclusive, embracing the objects that furnish domestic interiors, architecture, tools, books, toys, clothing, modes of transportation, musical instruments, dance, and even food. The precise relationships between migration and material culture have varied dramatically across time, space, and political and social context. Our goal is to analyze and thereby be able to explain the diversity of these relationships and experiences.

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Special Issue of WSQ: CHILD

Call for Papers, Poetry and Prose: WSQ Special Issue, Spring 2015: CHILD

Guest Editors: Sarah Chinn and Anna Mae Duane

Children have always been fraught subjects for feminist scholarship. Women are alternately infantilized and subsumed in service of children. Indeed, nowhere are women’s rights more assiduously attacked than around the question of their biological capacity to bear and raise children. Our concerns in this issue of WSQ, though, are children and childhood themselves: representations of children, children’s experiences, and children’s place in the world.

Recent scholarship in childhood studies has taken on core assumptions around children, especially children’s innocence and their removal from the realm of work and financial gain. And yet children play a crucial role in the global economy. As consumers, children represent an immense market. As producers and workers, children manufacture goods of every kind. Children constitute a significant stream of bodies for trafficking networks of domestic and other kinds of labor, including sex work. And children tried as adults populate prison systems around the world, especially in the United States.

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Fun with Dick and Jane: Gender and Childhood

“Fun with Dick and Jane: Gender and Childhood”: A Gender Studies Conference at the University of Notre Dame
South Bend, Indiana
December 4-6, 2014

In recent years, there has been great interest in questions of gender and childhood, ranging from issues around boys wearing princess costumes to school; to Disney princess culture; to parents refusing to announce a baby’s biological sex; to pre-teen children coming out as gay, lesbian, and queer; to toy companies marketing toys by gender; to gender-related bullying, and more.

How are children gendered? How do we account for transgender children? How have ideas about girls and boys changed historically? How are children hailed as gendered consumers? How do schools inculcate ideas about gender? How do children’s books promote ideas about gender? How do changing ideas about parenting relate to children’s gendering?

This conference seeks to explore issues of gender and childhood through multiple lenses and from a wide range of disciplines. We welcome papers on gender and childhood in media, literature, history, anthropology, biology, architecture, philosophy, art history, sociology, education, and more. We are especially open to interdisciplinary approaches.

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Guest Post: Malia McAndrew on American Beauty Culture

Malia McAndrew blogs about the larger contexts of American “beauty culture” as they related to her forthcoming article “Japanese American Beauty Pageants and Minstrel Shows: The Performance of Gender and Race by Nisei Youth during World War II.” McAndrew is assistant professor of history at John Carroll University who regularly teaches an undergraduate history course on Twentieth Century Youth Culture and is currently finishing a monograph entitled Beauty Culture Battlegrounds: Race, Sex, and America’s Redefinition of the Feminine Ideal, 1945-1972.

The Pursuit of Perfection: A Historian’s Reflections on the Meanings of American Beauty Culture

Historically, the 4th of July has been a popular day for beauty contests in the United States. In this 1940 image girls of all ages are shown lining up for a local pageant in Salisbury, Maryland. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection. <a href=

While researching the history of Japanese American beauty pageants, fashion shows, clothing trends and hairstyles for my article in this month’s edition of the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, I often found myself contemplating our society’s current obsession with youth, beauty, and physical perfection. While my article focuses on the experiences of one very small subset of Americans –young people who came of age inside U.S. incarceration camps some seventy years ago– the daily struggles these youngsters faced will no doubt seem familiar to the modern reader. Inside the camps, young people worried about their appearance, they spent hours trying to look more attractive, and placed great value upon popular American standards of beauty. Today, many of us continue to obsess about our hair, our weight, our clothes, and every other aspect of our physical appearance. Particularly for young women and girls, an intense drive to model our bodies after predominant standards of beauty leaves many of us feeling perpetually inadequate. As a historian, I encourage others to look to the past for perspective on our contemporary situation. Indeed, I suggest that by looking at beauty culture’s history we can begin to reconsider our own practices, understand how the society we live in came to be, and chart a different future.

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Theorizing Childhood: Citizenship, Rights, Participation

Call for Papers
Sociology of Childhood – Theorizing Childhood: Citizenship, Rights, Participation

The Research Network, Sociology of Children and Childhood hereby announces the mid-term symposium which will take place in Modena (Italy) from 21st to 23rd May, 2014. The organisation of the symposium will be undertaken at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

The focus of the symposium will be on theorizing childhood, in particular the areas of citizenship, rights and participation, exploring the different and various perspectives that can include these topics in the broader field of childhood studies and Sociology.

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Childhood and Gender in Time

CALL FOR PAPERS: Genesis on Childhood and Gender in Time

The journal Genesis. Rivista della Società Italiana delle Storiche calls for papers for a special issue dedicated to “childhood and gender in time.”

The nature of childhood and its significance as a separate phase of life are at the centre of a process of critical rethinking, which is generating new and challenging interdisciplinary research. We would like to explore the social construction of gender in childhood, from a transnational and interdisciplinary perspective, giving particular attention to the role of play, toys, and children’s literature. Our aim is to examine how gender norms and gender models have been formulated and propagated in different historical, geographical and cultural contexts, but also how those models have been appropriated, contested and possibly subverted. We are interested in the relationship between the effort of regulating children and the “agency” that children are able to express, particularly in the context of a children’s peer culture, in which play (broadly understood) has a central role.

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Cute Studies

Call for Papers: “Cute Studies,” a special issue of the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture

Cuteness has a global reach: it is an affective response; an aesthetic category; a performative act of self-expression; and an immensely popular form of consumption. This themed issue of the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is intended to launch the new, interdisciplinary, transnational academic field of Cute Studies.

Cute culture, a nineteenth century development in Europe and the US, with an earlier expression in Edo-era Japan, has flourished in East Asia since the 1970s, and around the world from the turn of the new millennium. This special issue seeks papers that engage with a wide variety of both the forms that express cute culture, and the platforms upon which its articulation depends. Thus, the field of Cute Studies casts a wide net, analyzing not only consumers of cute commodities, but also those who seek to enact, represent, or reference cuteness through personal presentation or behavior. Since these groups intermingle, cute culture may be seen as a type of fan community, in which the line between consumers and producers is continually renegotiated. Cute Studies also encompasses critical analyses of the creative works produced by practitioners such as artists, designers, and performers, as well as the circumstances that determine the production and dissemination of these works.

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Young People’s Materials and Culture

Call for Papers: Journal of Graduate Research in Young People’s Materials and Culture (JGR)

Based at the University of British Columbia the Journal of Graduate Research in Young People’s Materials and Culture (JGR) is a peer-reviewed open-access e-journal publishing graduate student research in the areas of children’s and young adult literature, childhood studies, and cultural studies related to children and young people.
We are currently selecting manuscripts for our winter 2013 issue. Papers on any children’s or young adult genres are welcome as are papers that discuss other children’s materials such as film, virtual texts, or graphic novels.

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Negotiations of Gender in Early Childhood Settings

Call for papers Special issue: Negotiations of Gender in Early Childhood Settings

The International Journal of Early Childhood invites researchers with different theoretical and methodological perspectives to contribute to a special issue on children’s negotiations of gender and normality in early childhood education. This is in order to develop an international research-based conversation on this topic. We welcome researchers from different geographical areas to contribute to this special issue.

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