Keynote SpeakersProfessor Elizabeth Chin | Dr. Judith Ennew
Professor Elizabeth Chin
"Culture and the Politics of Children"
I take as my starting place a reflection on Sharon Stephens' 1995 introduction to Children and the Politics of Culture, reflecting on the ways in which scholarship on children and childhood has grown in the intervening years. Drawing from my emergent thinking on children and childhood in Haiti, I want to talk in particular about 1) children and NGOs; 2) constructions of child vulnerability 3) the need to look at both 'endangered' and ‘privileged’ children in the developing world. Too often research seems to reproduce the notion that privilege and poverty exist in entirely separate spheres, but these 'multiple childhoods' very often exist side-by-side: in the same schools, the same households and even the same families, patitcularly in what Russell Belk calls the ‘less affluent world’.
Dr. Judith Ennew
University of Malaya
"Why childhood? Why now?"
No previous historical period focused on childhood with the intensity of the past century. This was manifest in the increasing development of state-licensed professions, such as social work, education and psychology, which challenge centuries of parenting practices; implemented through political definitions of childhood and children’s rights; enshrined in legislative prohibitions against children’s involvement in work and war; and backed up in the appearance of studies of children and childhood in various realms of social research. This presentation will examine the socio-economic and political causes of this intensifying interest in childhood, and increasing activism on behalf of children, in the light of Karl Marx’s comment in 1859 that ‘the child in every epoch [represents] the character of the period in its natural veracity’.
Although current discourses of childhood are increasingly globalized, they are both manifold and contradictory, especially within parallel rapid changes in human rights and social freedoms. This is clearly demonstrated by considering the designation of the twentieth century by Swedish social reformer Ellen Key as the ‘century of childhood’, in which women and children would become free of male domination. While this may be partially true for some women, children remain under adult control – not least through manipulation of the misconceived couple ‘women-and-children’ in debates on human trafficking. Ancient patriarchal repression persists in a new guise. Taking a cynical approach to progress towards fulfilling the human rights of children, as well as to the development of ‘new’ studies of children and childhood, the presentation will ask if (and how) they articulate with the economic and political realities of 2011.