ArticlePDF Available

A Political Space for Children? The Age Order and Children’s Right to Participation



This article discusses how adulthood is naturalized and how adulthood norms set limits on the possibilities of including children in democratic processes and understanding them as political subjects. The article examines the kind of resistance children and youth can meet when participating in democratic processes, with examples of speech acts from the Gothenburg Youth Council. It also discusses the theoretic concept of childism (Wall, 2008, 2010) and how childism can be a way to escape the dominance of adulthood norms. The concept of childism means addressing children’s experiences by transforming understandings and practices for all humans, not only for non-adults. How is it possible to create a political space for children and involve children in defining what should count as politically important?
Social Inclusion (ISSN: 2183–2803)
2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 164–171
DOI: 10.17645/si.v5i3.969
A Political Space for Children? The Age Order and Children’s Right
to Participation
Jeanette Sundhall
Department of Cultural Sciences, Gothenburg University, 40530 Gothenburg, Sweden; E-Mail:
Submitted: 31 March 2017 | Accepted: 17 July 2017 | Published: 26 September 2017
This article discusses how adulthood is naturalized and how adulthood norms set limits on the possibilities of including
children in democratic processes and understanding them as political subjects. The article examines the kind of resistance
children and youth can meet when participating in democratic processes, with examples of speech acts from the Gothen-
burg Youth Council. It also discusses the theoretic concept of childism (Wall, 2008, 2010) and how childism can be a way
to escape the dominance of adulthood norms. The concept of childism means addressing children’s experiences by trans-
forming understandings and practices for all humans, not only for non-adults. How is it possible to create a political space
for children and involve children in defining what should count as politically important?
adulthood norms; age order; childism; participation; youth council
This article is part of the issue “Promoting Children’s Participation in Research, Policy and Practice”, edited by Jo Aldridge
(Loughborough University, UK).
© 2017 by the author; licensee Cogitatio (Lisbon, Portugal). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribu-
tion 4.0 International License (CC BY).
1. Introduction
In this article, I discuss how adulthood norms set limits
on the possibilities of including children in democratic
processes and understanding them as political subjects.
Adulthood norms are norms that imply an adult position
which is implicit, invisible and thus naturalized. The theo-
retical starting point of this article is thus that adulthood
is naturalized and fundamental to an understanding of
the age categorization of children, and also that age (like
gender) is constructed relationally. One is always young,
old, older, or younger relative to someone else, but also
relative to a certain context.
Since it started in the 1980’s, the research field of
childhood studies has had the stated ambition of re-
ducing the difference in power between children and
adults. The research field launched concepts like: the
child as an actor,the competent child,children’s partic-
ipation. These concepts are about recognizing children
as full human beings and as equivalent to adults (Ala-
nen 1988, 1992; Hockey & James, 1993; James, Jenks, &
Prout, 1998; James & Prout, 1990; Qvortrup, 1994). This
has been criticized by John Wall (2012) who argues that
concepts like agency and competence assume and repro-
duce an adulthood norm where rights are not absolute
but must be earned. In this article, I use Wall’s concept
of childism in order to critically examine a case and dis-
cuss current structures and norms, as childism offers a
tool for deconstructing the naturalisation of adulthood.
In the field of childhood studies, the meanings and
the effects of adulthood are not much discussed. Just as
theoretical approaches in queer theory and critical white-
ness studies focus on the superior position and show that
it is important not to restrict examination to the subor-
dinate position, I believe that this idea is equally impor-
tant when it comes to power relations between children
and adults.
2. Age as a Power Order
The idea of working for children’s increased participation,
which is formulated in Article 12 in the UN convention
Social Inclusion, 2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 164–171 164
on the rights of the child, is based on knowledge that,
due to their age, children and young people are under-
represented in political processes and are seldom heard
in public. Age is a widespread and accepted reason to
treat people differently. Age and different ways of regu-
lating age are common ways to create social order (Näs-
man, 2004). That is why age can be regarded as a power
order; a social order which carries hierarchies and dis-
crimination, inclusions and exclusions. Ideas and norms
regarding age are used in order to organize and disci-
pline individuals, activities, and contexts. Age is regarded
as a “neutral belonging” and these organizations thus
gain an objective character as something biological and
chronologic (Krekula, Närvänen, & Näsman, 2005; Närvä-
nen, 2009).
The life phase of adulthood is generally ascribed a
higher status when compared to other life phases since
the individuals here are considered nourishing: they are
contributing to the survival of society. The individuals
belonging to the life phases of childhood, youth, and
old age are, on the contrary, regarded as consuming:
they are not contributing to society but merely using
its resources (Hockey & James, 1993; Närvänen & Näs-
man, 2007).
Age is made binary by the division into children and
adults, although age categorizations contain concepts
such as teenager, youth, and young adult, which soften
this binary division and imply that the boundary between
child and adult is a flexible one (Sjöberg, 2013). In prac-
tice, however, children and adults are often positioned in
a binary way. The naturalization of adulthood also means
that it constitutes the unmarked age (Krekula & Johans-
son, 2017). The unmarked age is that which other age cat-
egorizations are related to and which itself constitutes
the norm. In the case of adulthood, this is an invisible
norm: a naturalization. Adulthood is so fundamental to
being seen as a full human that we view it as natural that
children are considered not yet fully human. Thus, adult-
hood becomes naturalized and at the same time age be-
comes a legitimate power order when it comes to the
age categorization of children, since children’s subordi-
nation is regarded as something natural and often even
desirable; children are viewed as “under development”
and in need of adult protection and care.
My position in analysing and discussing adulthood
norms is that it is not enough to analyse only the subor-
dinate position, that of the child. In order to understand
how dominance relations are constructed, reproduced,
and challenged, it is also necessary to examine the supe-
rior position.
Age is constructed relationally in that the child cate-
gorization comprises characteristics such as immaturity,
volatility, and spontaneity (in the sense of being non-
reflective), while the adult categorization is constructed
as the opposite: adult individuals become mature, sta-
ble, and reflective. The child categorization thus con-
tributes to the association of adulthood with positive
qualities (Alanen, 1992). When children are understood
as under development and in need of protection, this
gives legitimacy to the primacy of adults which can be
compared to how women, in a binary understanding of
gender, are constructed as weak and emotionally unsta-
ble and how this gives legitimacy to male superiority.
The age order is about how adults use children to de-
fine themselves in an ideological process of dominance
and self-definition that can be compared with processes
where men have defined women and colonizers have de-
fined the persons they colonized as “the Other” (Sund-
hall, 2012; Thorne, 1987).
The emphasizing of children’s agency in the field
of childhood studies has resulted in children being dis-
cussed in terms of citizenship, a concept that has tra-
ditionally completely excluded children (Archard, 1993;
Freeman, 2011; Nakata, 2015; Oswell, 2013). In societies
that regard themselves as democratic, there is still a
large part of the population who are not permitted or as-
sumed to be a part of the political life and to be involved
in formulating what is politically important. This applies
to the age categorization of children, who are excluded
due to their chronological age. Their exclusion is thus due
to their difference compared to the norm of the citizen,
a synonym for the adult subject.
The basis for this article is an analysis of speech acts
concerning the Youth Council of Gothenburg, Sweden,
which I use to discuss how adult norms are naturalized
and consolidated but also how they are made visible and
challenged. This analysis of speech acts involves post-
structuralist ideas of how language is performative and
my interest in different kinds of texts focuses on what
the text is doing and not what it means. I will use the
concept of childism (Wall, 2008, 2010) and discuss how
it can be a way to escape the dominance of adult norms.
The concept of childism means addressing children’s ex-
periences by transforming understandings and practices
for all humans, not only for non-adults. Childism can then
be an approach which challenges and changes structures
and possibilities (Wall, 2010).
3. The Significance of Speech Acts for the Dominance
of Adulthood
The naturalization of adulthood implies that it can be
hard to spot, though the effects of the naturalization may
be easier to uncover. One effect emerges through an
embodiment and repetition of norms which lead others
to believe in their naturalizing effects (Butler, 1993). Ex-
plicit references to adulthood and its prerequisite childity
(Sjöberg, 2013) are often used for disciplinary purposes:
“Grow up! Don’t be such a baby! You’re acting like a
three-year-old!” Often, these references are made with-
out anyone reflecting on how these speech acts work
in a discriminatory and subordinating way, not towards
those the words are directed against but to those who
fit into the age categorization of children. The effect of
the speech acts is thus to confirm the normality of adult-
hood. Some constructions function in such a naturalizing
Social Inclusion, 2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 164–171 165
way that one no longer understands that they are con-
structions or that the function is subordinating.
4. The Need to Redefine Key Concepts
One aim of this article is to consider how to seriously
include children in democratic processes. Two theorists
who have discussed this issue by starting from the con-
cept that adult norms are in control are Moosa-Mitha
(2005) and Wall (2008, 2010, 2012). Both propose that
the very definitions of concepts like democracy and hu-
man rights are problematic, not least in ownership of the
right to define them. The conclusion is to redefine what
democracy and human rights actually mean—only then
can children be included.
Moosa-Mitha has discussed how adult norms ex-
clude children by defining democracy and human rights
as something that children do not yet deserve and that
an implicit adulthood is used as the standard of a real
citizen (Moosa-Mitha, 2005). If we instead reflect on the
basis of alternative models of citizenship—models that
put difference at their centre—we can see possibilities
of defining children’s citizenship in ways that take chil-
dren’s rights and status as citizens seriously, due to their
identities as children rather than despite them (Moosa-
Mitha, 2005).
Moosa-Mitha takes as a starting-point the more fluid
and pluralistic way in which feminist theorists discuss dif-
ference by thinking about citizenship as situated in a poli-
tics of solidarity; a transversal politics where citizens with
multiple subject positions get together and enact resis-
tance against oppression (Moosa-Mitha, 2005). Moosa-
Mitha also uses the concept differently-equal, as pro-
posed by Yuval-Davies (1999). By emphasizing difference
before equality, Yuval-Davies suggests that it is through
difference that equality is defined and that difference
can become the very foundation of citizenship, rather
than a place of exclusion (Moosa-Mitha 2005; Yuval-
Davies, 1999).
Moosa-Mitha discusses how difference is related to
citizens’ experiences of belonging and participation, and
how citizenship is thus characterized by a recognition
of citizens’ differences regarding specific historical cir-
cumstances, vulnerabilities, and interests. The concept
of participation can be widened to encompass an under-
standing of participation as an expression of agency, no
matter how differently that agency is expressed. Pres-
ence is central in this understanding. It is not enough to
have a voice; in order to have a presence in society, one’s
voice also has to be heard. Not to acknowledge the pres-
ence of a citizen is itself a form of oppression (Moosa-
Mitha, 2005). Being treated as an equal member of so-
ciety means having one’s personal concerns viewed as
questions of general importance. Since participation in
the public sphere is so important for this, an exclusion
from participation implies that one is excluded from be-
ing able to perform one’s citizenship.
An alternative view of children’s rights of equality
would focus on normative assumptions and beliefs of
social institutions that are gendered, racialized and
adultist, and which exclude children from belonging
as equals both within and outside the family. (Moosa-
Mitha, 2005)
For children, belonging as equals in society is a prerequi-
site for being able to participate in democratic processes
and being able to be understood as political subjects.
5. Childism
John Wall follows the same route as Mehmoona Moosa-
Mitha in discussing the concept of childism. Childism is a
concept that was coined by two different theorists and it
has two different meanings. I will here assume the defini-
tion of John Wall, which is completely opposed to Young-
Bruehl’s definition as discrimination against children (cf.,
sexism and ageism). Wall’s definition is about redefining
central norms so that they can include children’s expe-
riences, which is exactly what Moosa-Mitha discusses.
The whole theory of human rights is constructed around
adulthood. In all of the justifications of why humans
should have human rights, children are placed in a posi-
tion of lacking the right to have rights (Wall, 2008). Rights
belong to rational subjects and throughout western his-
tory rationality has been discussed as a qualification pos-
sessed by the adult subject, but not by the child. In
this understanding, children can only be nurtured, disci-
plined, or educated into rational individuals (Wall, 2008).
The inclusion of children in democratic processes re-
quires an extended concept of the political subject and
the political terrain. According to Wall, this new concept,
which is analogous to feminism, queer theory, and en-
vironmentalism, is childism. In discussing concepts such
as agency and representation in relation to political in-
clusion, Wall points out that the idea of politics as an ex-
pression of agency is not a new one, but derives from the
Enlightenment. Until now, it has been possible to con-
ceive of children as second-class citizens because agency
is connected to an autonomous and independent adult-
hood. Agency is, in itself, a political norm based on a
historical, adult-centred preconception. This understand-
ing of agency attempts to fit children into political con-
structions which take adulthood as their starting point,
rather than challenging the constructions themselves
(Wall, 2012).
The result of this is the proposal of a model where
children’s political citizenship is based on interdepen-
dence, which is about an individual’s simultaneous active
independence and passive dependence. The advantage
of basing citizenship on interdependence rather than
agency is that children and adults then become more
equal. However, according to Wall, children’s voices will
still be marginalized in such a dialogue because of the
historical oppression against them. What is needed is a
Social Inclusion, 2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 164–171 166
a political space where children are entitled to express
their own views and claim their difference toward others
(Wall, 2012).
Regarding the difference model advocated by Moosa-
Mitha, Wall argues that this model has the advantage of
giving children the chance to claim historical marginaliza-
tion. The difference model can be used to deconstruct
the normative assumptions which view children as not
being complete political subjects. The difference model
also makes it clear that children are not a homogeneous
group but, like all other age categorizations, are living
under various circumstances and therefore might partic-
ipate in politics in various ways. However, Wall argues
that the model is nevertheless problematic because one
of the most significant ways in which children are “differ-
ent” is that they generally have less experience in fighting
for political power (Wall, 2012). Age has an actual effect
on one’s ability to execute political action and children
have usually participated in political life for fewer years
than adults. Age implies a genuine difference when it
comes to the ability to fight on behalf of one’s difference
(Wall, 2012). The solution to this problem, Wall argues,
is to rethink the foundations of political representation
in a way that is simultaneously both interdependent and
This can be done, I now argue, by learning about the
larger meaning of democracy from children’s particu-
lar experiences. What is learned is that political repre-
sentation should ultimately mean empowering lived
differences to make a difference to interdependent
political structures. The negative aim of deconstruct-
ing power meets the positive aim of creating com-
munity in the truly democratic aim of a difference-
responsive political whole. (Wall, 2012)
Wall emphasizes that children can be understood as polit-
ically responsible. Being politically represented does not
only mean expressing one’s own interests, but rather,
along with others, creating a more diversely constructed
political whole (Wall, 2012).
6. The Youth Council of Gothenburg: An Attempt to
Include Children in Democratic Processes
Some attempts have been made to include children in
the political context and cater for children’s right to
participation. These include, for example, the child and
youth parliaments that are available in at least 30 coun-
tries, either on a national or a municipal level. These par-
liaments are often initiated by adults and researchers in
the field have discussed how adults in many ways simul-
taneously extend and shrink the political and civil par-
ticipation of children and young people (Kawecka Nenga
& Taft, 2013). Youth councils and children’s parliaments
have also been criticized by researchers for being elitist,
adult-led, and empty symbols of participation (Gordon &
Taft, 2011). Researchers have also discussed examples of
children’s parliaments where children and youth exercise
direct, political power and achieve significant differences
in their societies (Wall, 2012). Some relatively new move-
ments are working for child-friendly cities and build upon
a growing attention to “the rights to the city”. This refers
not only to individual access to resources, but also to ex-
ercising collective power in order to promote urban de-
velopment. Child-friendly cities not only aim to provide
safe and accessible spaces but also opportunities for chil-
dren’s and young people’s participation in local decision-
making (Flanders Cushing & van Vliet, 2016). The city of
Gothenburg has the explicit aim of being “a children’s
and youth city” and it is declared that “the young per-
spective is especially important to the decision-makers
of the city” and also that a goal of the city is that “young
citizens of Gothenburg shall be given increased opportu-
nities to influence” (City of Gothenburg, n.d.).
Gothenburg has had a Youth Council since 2004. The
website of this Council states that:
The Youth Council consists of 101 young people from
all districts of Gothenburg. In the Youth Council,
young people between 12–17 years of age meet and
discuss various questions concerning young people in
Gothenburg. It is the young people themselves who
decide which questions are to be discussed. Via the
Youth Council, you who are young have the opportu-
nity to influence municipal committees, boards, com-
panies, and administrations. (Youth Council, n.d.)
My overall intention in researching the Youth Council
was to examine how children and adults cooperate in
projects like this, projects aiming at children’s right to par-
ticipate in society. It was when I attended a conference
during which the Youth Council presented their work that
I first began to pay attention to the Youth Council. At the
conference, an adult in the audience suggested a topic
she considered adequate for the Youth Council to engage
in: boys taking a lot of space in the classroom at the
expense of girls. The Youth Council chairperson on the
stage agreed with the problem at first, but then reacted
with slight annoyance and responded that that should be
the responsibility of the teachers and that more impor-
tantly it is the Youth Council members themselves, not
adults, that formulate the issues they want to work with.
On this occasion, I came to reflect on the possibility of
adults taking over the privilege to formulate issues that
they think is appropriate for the Youth Council to engage
in and the consequences of such an approach.
During the two years that I have followed the work of
the Youth Council, it has become clear to me that much
of the Council’s work is aimed at ending the segregation
between different parts of Gothenburg. Public transport,
for example, has been a matter of great concern. Over
the past ten years, the Youth Council has been working
on the issue of expanded and free public transport. Their
accomplishments have included the securing of free pub-
lic transport for all schoolchildren until 10 pm on week-
Social Inclusion, 2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 164–171 167
days (instead of 7 pm), as well as a summer holiday card
which gives free travel for all schoolchildren between
the ages of 12 and 17 for three months during the sum-
mer. It is my understanding that the Youth Council con-
sider public transport a question of justice on two levels:
firstly, children and young people should not have to be
dependent on their parents or guardians; and secondly,
children and young people should be able to travel any-
where in the city and not be limited to a particular area.
In a meeting concerning public transport, the mem-
bers of the Youth Council argue in favour of free public
transport for children and youth. The adults invited to
the meeting, a politician and a delegate from a transport
company, do not agree with the Youth Council’s descrip-
tion of children and youth as a particularly vulnerable
group in society when it comes to economic issues. One
of the adults says: “Free public transport for children and
youth would promote justice and integration more for
young people than for other groups. Justice is a broad
concept.” A Youth Council member argues: “As an adult,
you create your own life but as a child you are born into
an economic situation. You have less opportunity to in-
fluence your economic situation.” In doing this, the Youth
Council member is making the general power differences
between children and adults explicit and the age order,
which is often invisible and unproblematized, is made vis-
ible. After some exchanges of views, the adults at last
agree with the Youth Council members’ arguments about
the specific experiences of being children and being de-
pendent on adults. It is an example of childism when
the Youth Council members, from their positions as non-
adults, claim that their position differs from the privi-
leged position of adults, in terms of dependence and the
possibility of influencing one’s life conditions (Field notes
I have attended several meetings and workshops initi-
ated by the Youth Council to which they had invited adult
politicians and officials. Sometimes I have recognized
that the adults are doubtful about or question the ideas
and proposals presented by the Youth Council. However,
I have never seen such resistance from the adults as re-
garding the water slide discussed below. For this reason,
I found it a particularly interesting case to examine.
During the summer of 2015, the Youth Council
wanted to organise a 140-metre-long water slide at the
annual Gothenburg Culture Festival. The aim of the wa-
ter slide was to “create a meeting space for young people
from all districts. The Youth Council believes that meet-
ings between young people from various backgrounds
and conditions contribute to greater integration” (Offi-
cial statement on 2015-05-19 ref: 1130/15). The Youth
Council would also inform about their work in connec-
tion to the water slide in order to reach more children
and youth.
The Youth Council have an annual funding of 300 000
Swedish kronor (equivalent to about 31 663 euros) and
the cost of organising the water slide was calculated at
165 000 Swedish kronor. Since this would exceed 10 000
Swedish kronor, the Youth Council, according to a regu-
lation, had to ask permission from the City Council. The
response from the City Council consisted of two texts,
one from each political bloc. I will now discuss how adult
norms are both made visible (and thus challenged) and
made invisible (and thus reproduced) in the texts. One of
the political blocs stated:
The Youth Council is an important part of the City’s
work to increase participation and impact among
young people. Consequently, it is important to reach
out widely among the young people of the City so that
as many as possible get the opportunity to be heard.
To increase the awareness of the Youth Council and its
work is thus an important part of the work….A consid-
erable sum of the Youth Council’s budget will be used
to rent a so-called water slide which will be the centre
of attention for the activities of the Youth Council and
act as a draw. This is a priority that may seem strange
to many adults. However, the idea of the youth coun-
cil was not that all of its decisions should be like the
ones that adults would have made, but that new per-
spectives should come through….Last but not least we
would like to offer the idea of not having an upper age
limit, so that we who are older also get an opportunity
to try the water slide (Opinion S,MP,V Gothenburg City
Council 2015-06-10. Errand 2.2.5).
The other opinion was formulated thus:
It is unusual, if it has even ever happened, that the
City Council have felt it necessary to contradict a pro-
posal from The Youth Council. However, the current
proposal has a scope and design that cannot pass un-
noticed. Firstly, the proposal provokes thoughts about
the size of the budget. The budget of 300 000 cor-
responds to the full annual city tax payment of five
wage earners. There are a lot of working hours be-
hind this money that the Youth Council can dispose
of freely. Now the Youth Council wishes to use half
of that money on a water slide (Opinion M, FP,KD.
Gothenburg City Council 2015-06-10. Errand 2.2.5).
The opinions from the City Council are examples of
speech acts where the adult norm is reproduced but also
challenged. In the first text, a problematizing of the adult
norm is formulated: “This is a priority that may seem
strange to many adults”, with the effect that the adult
norm is no longer naturalized but rather made visible. It
is also emphasized here that the idea behind the Youth
Council is to enable new perspectives and promote de-
cisions that adults perhaps would not make, which is a
formulation that points to a childistic perspective: that
the right to define what is politically important does not
solely belong to adults but to children as well. The last
sentence of the opinion is a playful way of breaking up
the power relation through an appeal not to exclude
adult water slide riders.
Social Inclusion, 2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 164–171 168
The second text contains different formulations
which are not as playful. That the “five wage earners”
are adults does not need to be written and as a result
the power relation the opinion is based on is made invisi-
ble. These “working hours” are contrasted with the state-
ment that the Youth Council “dispose…freely” of 300 000
Swedish kronor every year, and the opinion ends with a
call for a review of how the Youth Council’s money has
been used in recent years:
We would like a review of how the Youth Council’s
budget has been used in recent years. The support
given to the Youth Council given by the City needs
to combine the procurement of young people’s ideas
with expertise in how the aims of the initiatives are
best met.
The emphasis that the Youth Council “freely” has respon-
sibility for 300 000 Swedish kronor and the contrasting of
this sum against the working hours behind it have a disci-
plinary undertone. The fact that children are not given
the possibility of performing professional work under
the same conditions as adults, both due to compulsory
school attendance and various age limitations in work-
ing life, and thus are not given the same opportunities
as adults to contribute to the economy of the society is
made invisible. Adult norms remain naturalized through
the speech act in the opinion. Moreover, the request for
“a review of how the Youth Councils budget has been
used in recent years” could be interpreted as a threat.
Is the Youth Council really capable of dealing with that
much money? What have they actually accomplished?
Formulations like “the support…given by the City” and
“expertise” imply that adult power is active; that adults
have the power to define what is right and wrong in rela-
tion to the assignment of the Youth Council. “Expertise”
is formulated as something adults can possess and offer
children rather than something that the members of the
Youth Council can have themselves.
The adult politicians do not seem to consider the pos-
sibility that the members of the Youth Council have them-
selves already discussed the high cost of the water slide.
However, such a discussion did take place and some of
the members were doubtful whether it was “worth such
a large part of our budget”. One member said:
I am doubtful of the idea. It’s good to have a deeper
thought behind an activity so we fulfil our aims….If
you consider the adults in society who’ve been work-
ing and paying taxes…we’re responsible for every
krona we’re using from the municipality. It is more
important than the water slide. It can give quite the
wrong signals. I think we should spend the money on
something useful. (Field notes 2015-04-20)
This member’s argumentation against the water slide
aroused protests among the other members, but one
partly agreed:
I am ambivalent. It’s a lot of money, but it’s a good
cause. Of course, some people will think that it’s a
waste and that it’d be better to invest in something
serious (Field notes 2015-04-20).
Thus, the adult norms were not upheld solely by individu-
als who are categorized as adults—and this is how norms
work. Norms are not only reproduced or challenged by
the groups which benefit from the norm; we all con-
tribute to them (Butler, 1993).
7. Childism: Reclaiming the Childish and Making
Fundamental Change
The water slide finally got clearance from the City Coun-
cil and following a cold spell the weather changed in time
for the August days during which the event was held. The
local paper Göteborgs-Posten reported that “Thousands
got to try the water slide. There were at least 6 500 rides
on the 140-metre-long water ride this week-end” (Mar-
tinsson, 2015).
The chairperson of the Youth Council during 2015,
Morgan Landström, was quoted in the print version of
Göteborgs-Posten as saying:
We wanted to contribute to the Culture Festival and a
water slide feels at the same time summery and child-
ish. To us, it is important to create a place of commu-
nity and openness for the youth of Gothenburg. (Dal-
ghi, 2015)
Here, Morgan is reclaiming the word childish by using it
in a clearly positive way. Refusing to accept the idea that
childishness should represent anything negative is a way
to challenge current adult norms.
One reason for the City Council’s approval of the wa-
ter slide was the idea that the Youth Council should evalu-
ate whether the event really did become a meeting place
for young people from all over Gothenburg. The Youth
Council thus performed a survey asking what districts the
water slide riders came from. The results showed that
children and young people came from all over Gothen-
burg to ride the water slide, and that the event got very
good reviews: “The result is, to say the least, a positive
one; 99% of the respondents had a positive opinion and
41% felt that a water slide was the best idea ever. No
one thought that it was rubbish or bad” (Youth Coun-
cil, 2015).
How, then, can we understand the possibilities of
including children in democratic processes and under-
standing them as political subjects? How can a childistic
perspective challenge the adult norms which set limits
on this? Childism implies thinking in a new way and en-
abling a broader understanding of democracy through
the specific experiences of children. The positions which
decide what is to be considered politically important are
held by adults. Child and youth parliaments can have the
effect of leading children to embrace adult values but
Social Inclusion, 2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 164–171 169
they can also enable children to challenge the political
worlds surrounding them in surprising and unforeseen
ways (Wall, 2012). The discussion about the water slide
exemplifies the thoughts of Mehmoona Moosa-Mithas
and John Walls about how children’s own lived realities
and subjective experiences can dissolve adulthood’s con-
struction of power (Moosa-Mitha, 2005; Wall, 2012). A
truly child-inclusive society is not a society where chil-
dren are simply made into the equals of adults, but rather
a society that allows itself to change fundamentally in an-
swer to what makes children different (Wall, 2010). Hu-
man rights have always pointed to something beyond
that which has been thought hitherto. The perspective
of children can extend what it means to be human be-
yond “the white noise of adult-centrism” (Wall, 2010).
8. Conclusions
In this article, I have discussed the kind of resistance chil-
dren and young people can meet when they are partici-
pating in democratic processes. The example of the water
slide and the reactions to the proposal show the difficul-
ties that children and young people are faced with during
such participation and how they are questioned by adult
norms. Every political proposal has to be open to criti-
cism and this includes proposals from the Youth Council.
However, it is how this is done that is interesting if one
wants to try to understand what hinders children’s partici-
pation and presence in society. The purpose of the Youth
Council’s water slide was to create a meeting place for
children and young people in Gothenburg and the Coun-
cil succeeded in creating this despite the resistance that
they encountered. Childism is about being able to rede-
fine the political landscape. The example of the Gothen-
burg Youth Council is not about changing the legislation
or rephrasing policies but about the right to belong un-
der the same conditions as adults and to be involved in
defining what should count as politically important.
I gratefully acknowledge the members of the Youth Coun-
cil of Gothenburg, and the council’s coordinator Paula Ai-
jmer, who kindly let me take part in their work. It has been
really joyful and interesting for me to listen to the Youth
Council’s discussions and take part in their experiences.
Conflicts of Interests
The author declares no conflict of interests.
Alanen, L. (1988). Rethinking childhood. Acta Sociologica,
Alanen, L. (1992). Modern childhood? Exploring the ‘child
question’ in sociology. Jyväskylä: Jyväskylä Institute
for Educational Research.
Archard, D. (1993). Children. Rights and childhood. Lon-
don: Routledge.
Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter. On the discursive
limits of “sex”. New York: Routledge.
City of Gothenburg. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://
Dalghi, B. (2015, August 15). Blöt fest vid Näckros-
dammen. Göteborgs-Posten.
Flanders Cushing, D., & van Vliet, W. (2016). Chil-
dren’s right to the city: The emergence of youth
council in the United States. Children’s Geographies.
Freeman, M. (2011). Children’s rights as human rights.
Reading the UNCRC. In J. Qvortrup, W. Corsaro, & M.-
S. Honig (Eds.), The Palgrave handbook of childhood
studies. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gordon, H. R., & Taft, J. K. (2011). Rethinking youth polit-
ical socialization: Teenage activists talk back. Youth &
Society,43(4), 1499–1527.
Hockey, J., & James, A. (1993). Growing up and growing
old. Ageing and dependency in the life course. Lon-
don: Sage.
James, A., & Prout, A. (Eds.). (1990). Constructing and re-
constructing childhood: Contemporary issues in the so-
ciological study of childhood. London: Fallmer Press.
James, A., Jenks, C., & Prout, A. (1998). Theorizing child-
hood. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Kawecka Nenga, S., & Taft, J. K. (2013). Youth engage-
ment: The civic-political lives of children and youth
(Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, Volume
16). Bingley, UK: Emerald Books.
Krekula, C., & Johansson, B. (2017). En introduktion till
kritiska åldersstudier. In C. Krekula & B Johansson
(Eds.), Kritiska åldersstudier. Lund: Studentlitteratur
Krekula, C., & Närvänen, A.-L., & Näsman, E. (2005). Ålder
i intersektionell analys. Kvinnovetenskaplig Tidskrift,
Martinsson, A. (2015, August 17). Tusentals fick prova
jätterutschkanan. Göteborgs-Posten. Retrieved from:
Moosa-Mitha, M. (2005). A difference-centered alterna-
tive to theorization of children’s citizenship rights. Cit-
izenship Studies,9(4), 369–388.
Nakata, S. (2015). Childhood citizenship, governance
and policy. The politics of becoming adult. London:
Närvänen, A.-L. (2009). Ålder, livslopp, åldersordning.
In H. Jönsson (Ed.), Ålder, åldersordning, ålderism.
Linköping: Linköpings universitet.
Närvänen, A-L., & Näsman, E. (2007). Age order and chil-
dren’s agency. In H. Wintersberger, L. Alanen, T. Olk,
& J. Qvortrup (Eds.), Childhood, generational order
and the welfare state: Exploring children’s social and
economic welfare. Odense: University Press of South-
ern Denmark.
Social Inclusion, 2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 164–171 170
Näsman, E. (2004). Barndom, barn och barns rätt. In L.
Olsen (Ed.), Barns makt. Uppsala: Iustus Förlag.
Official Statement. Gothenburg City Council 2015-05-19.
Ref 1130/15.
Opinion S,MP,V Gothenburg City Council 2015-06-10. Er-
rand 2.2.5.
Opinion M, FP,KD. Gothenburg City Council 2015-06-10.
Errand 2.2.5.
Oswell, D. (2013). The agency of children. From family to
global human rights. New York: Cambridge University
Qvortrup, J. (1994). Childhood matters: An introduction.
In J. Qvortrup, M. Bardy, G. Sgritta, H. Wintersberger
(Eds.), Childhood matters. Social theory, practice and
politics. Aldershot: Avebury.
Sjöberg, J. (2013). I marknaden öga. Barn och visuell
konsumtion (Linköping Studies in Art and Science No
581). Linköping: Linköpings universitet, Institutionen
för Tema.
Sundhall, J. (2012). Kan barn tala? En genusvetenskaplig
undersökning av ålder i familjerättsliga utredning-
stexter. Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet, institutio-
nen för kulturvetenskaper.
Thorne, B. (1987). Re-visioning women and social
change: Where are the Children? Gender & Society,
1(1), 85–109.
Wall, J. (2008). Human rights in light of childhood. Inter-
national Journal of Children’s Rights,16, 523–543.
Wall, J. (2010). Ethics in light of childhood. Washington,
DC: Georgetown University Press.
Wall, J. (2012). Can democracy represent children?
Toward a politics of difference. Childhood,19(1),
Youth Council. (n.d.). Retrieved from ungdomsfull
Youth Council. (2015). Survey waterslide.
Yuval-Davies, N. (1999). Ethnicity, gender relations and
multiculturalism. In R. D. Torres, L. F. Miron, & I. J.
Xavier (Eds.), Race, identity and citizenship: A reader.
Oxford: Blackwell.
About the Author
Jeanette Sundhall has a PhD in Gender Studies and works as a Senior Lecturer at the Department
of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg. Her research interests concern age categorizations,
children’s rights, and power orders and she is particularly interested in how ideas about adulthood are
formulated and performed.
Social Inclusion, 2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 164–171 171
... In order to accept that such encounters are possible and welcome, one has to recognise one's positionality within various cultural, economic, social and political networks(Reed-Sandoval & Sykes, 2017). In reflecting on children's place and status within society, and in seeking opportunities for them to imagine and shape the future, our -adult -positionality may be troubled, something theWall, J. (2010) andSundhall (2017) would advocate. ...
This article considers children’s status in society and how this may be elevated with a view to imagining a possible future. Children’s status is such that the structures and systems under which they live diminish their agency. In so doing, their opportunity to contribute to the shaping of what appears to be an uncertain future is limited. The article proposes that looking towards children as saviours of our tomorrows is misguided and that a healthier view is to recognise the networked nature of children, which recognises children’s humanity and sees them as connected to the world in which and of which they are a part. By accepting the networked nature of children, adults may come to think and behave differently towards children, beginning to see themselves and children as ‘one among many’. This perspective allows for compassion, a notion that supports our living together. This article proposes that Philosophy with Children may offer an approach to engaging in community and dialogue that allows us to think our way to a future that is epistemically inclusive. Ultimately, engaging with children as potential knowers demands that we are more overtly political in the ways in which we engage with Philosophy with Children.
... It is a way of producing social order according to chronological time. Yet in practice such a universalising gesture inevitably overlooks the differences between children of the same age and can produce an inequality for children who are seen as less mature or competent (Gallacher, 2005;Haynes and Murris, 2016;Sundhall, 2017;Blaisdell, 2018). At Wood Fire, the lack of age-banding was perhaps a necessity given the practical impossibilities of dividing children within this space. ...
Full-text available
Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of the West of Scotland for the award of Doctor of Philosophy in collaboration with Early Years Scotland. April 2022. i Declaration I declare that this thesis is entirely my own and has not been previously submitted for another PhD or comparable award. Word count (excluding ancillary data, reference lists, appendices)-73,025 Shaddai Tembo April 2022 ii Abstract This doctoral thesis examines the formation of children's subjectivities, related to the metaphysical conditions of being and becoming a subject, within fully outdoor early childhood provision in Scotland. The role of outdoor play provision has been made central in recent years by the Scottish Government as part of the broader expansion of Early Learning and Childcare (Scottish Government, 2017a; Scottish Government, 2017b; Education Scotland, 2019c; Scottish Government, 2020a). This enhanced focus raises questions around how children form their subjectivities in such spaces and how this may differ from what is known about subjectivity within conventional indoor provision. Further, while the existing knowledge base on subjectivity in childhood is derived mainly from the intellectual progress made through the fields of social constructionism (Foucault, 1978), performativity theory (Butler, 2004; 2006; 2011) and developmental psychology (Piaget, 1948; 1957), concerns have been raised regarding the extent to which such frameworks may give primacy to the human, and the logics of humanism, over and above the non-human world (Barad, 2007; Dolphijn and Tuin, 2012; Braidotti, 2013). Such concerns warrant special attention in relation to entirely outdoor environments, where these approaches may underplay the significance of ontological and ontogenetic matters that contribute toward the formation of subjectivity. This study applies a sociomaterial metaphysical framework to propose an alternative way of understanding how subjectivities come to form in early childhood environments, bringing together Spinozist (2002) monism and insights from process philosophy (Massumi, 2002) in relation to Deleuze and Guattari's (1987) concepts of the assemblage and affect. Methodologically, a ethnographic approach, inspired partly from the postqualitative field of scholarship, is employed to gather data on children's subjectivities at Wood Fire, a fully outdoor early childhood setting. The findings of this study reveal the novel materiality and relationality of fully outdoor early childhood provision through which subjectivities are informed , and also point toward the ways that social and cultural determinacies continue to affectively orientate children's desires in the absence of clearly demarcated material spaces. Thus, these findings a demonstrate more expanded understanding of how we, humans, are produced as individuals in specific encounters through processes of 'affective sociomaterialisation'. Through the presentation of data in textual, visual and cinematic modes, practitioners are encouraged to re-evaluate the role of outdoor provision through a sociomaterial metaphysics that challenges conventional knowledges about how children's subjectivities are formed. Practically, this carries implications for how the materiality of outdoor environments is understood to contribute to the child's sense of self on more expansive terms. iii
... Gengið er út frá því að börn séu sérfraeðingar í lífi sínu, geti myndað sér skoðanir á málefnum sem þau varða, látið þaer í ljós og haft áhrif á daglegt líf sitt. Í þessari rannsókn er frumkvaeði ungmenna í grunnskóla að breytingum á inntaki náms og kennslu skoðað út frá þremur víddum sem byggja á fyrri rannsóknum um samfélagsvirkni ungmenna og borgaralega þátttöku (Biswas og Mattheis, 2021;Josefsson og Wall, 2020;Sundhall, 2017;Wall, 2019) en einnig út frá birtingarmyndum fullorðinshyggju (Flasher, 1978;Meade, 2020). Í fyrsta lagi er varpað ljósi á samfélagslega þátttöku og virkni ungmenna, í öðru lagi eru þau áhrif, sem slík þátttaka hefur, skoðuð og hvaða óformlega nám á sér stað í gegnum slíka þátttöku og í þriðja lagi hver viðbrögð fullorðna og jafningja hafa verið (Biswas og Mattheis, 2021). ...
Full-text available
Lögð er áhersla á að börn og ungmenni láti til sín taka og hafi áhrif á samfélag sitt. Í þessari grein er fjallað um niðurstöður rannsóknar á frumkvæði nokkurra ungmenna að stofnun félagsins Menntakerfið okkar og þær tillögur að breytingum á námskrá sem félagið hefur staðið fyrir. Varpað er ljósi á tilurð, markmið og tilgang félagsins og hvaða áhrif frumkvæðið hefur í ljósi kenninga um mikilvægi samfélagslegrar virkni ungmenna. Einnig er gerð grein fyrir viðbrögðum fullorðinna og jafningja við tillögum þeirra og hvort þar megi greina birtingarmyndir fullorðinshyggju. Byggt er á fyrirliggjandi upplýsingum um félagið, fjölmiðlaumfjöllun um aðgerðir þess og viðtölum við stjórnarmenn, skólastjórnendur og sviðsstjóra hjá Hafnarfjarðarbæ. Helstu niðurstöður sýna að börn og ungmenni geta átt frumkvæði að breytingum með tillögum og aðgerðum og verið öðrum góð fyrirmynd í samfélagslegri virkni. Frumkvæði stjórnar félagsins Menntakerfið okkar og tillögum að breytingum var víða vel tekið, fjallað um þær í ýmsum fjölmiðlum og stjórnin kölluð til ráðgjafar af yfirvöldum sveitarfélaga og ríkis. Má meðal annars greina áherslur félagsins í menntastefnu til ársins 2030. Viðbrögðin voru þó ekki á einn veg og mætti frumkvæðið einnig neikvæðni jafningja á samfélagsmiðlum og hjá kennurum sem töldu að skilja mætti á málflutningi stjórnar félagsins að það væri ekki verið að kenna öll fög í skólanum og að kennararnir kenndu ekki það sem þeir ættu að kenna. Mikilvæg viðbrögð fullorðinna við frumkvæði ungmenna er að styðja við þau og sýna þeim fram á að þau geti verið virk í samfélaginu og tekið þátt í að móta það.
... Thus, adulthood becomes naturalized and at the same time age becomes a legitimate power order when it comes to the age categorization of children, since children's subordination is regarded as something natural and often desirable; children are viewed as 'under development' and in need of adult protection and care. 19 Attitudes, systems and institutions need not be maliciously intended, and the people involved may be acting with the best of intentions. But the privileging of adult norms can result in systematic disadvantages, discrimination against or oppression of children. ...
Full-text available
This article is open access at Policy responses to COVID-19 have had dramatic impacts on children’s human rights, as much as the COVID-19 pandemic itself. In the rush to protect the human right of survival and development, new policies and their implementation magnified the challenges of taking a children’s rights approach in adult-oriented systems and institutions. This article explores these challenges, drawing on learning from the independent Children’s Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) on policies affecting children in Scotland during ‘lockdown’ in spring 2020. The article uses concepts from childhood studies and legal philosophy to highlight issues for children’s human rights, in such areas as children in conflict with the law, domestic abuse, poverty and digital exclusion. The analysis uncovers how persistent constructions of children as vulnerable and best protected in their families led to systematic disadvantages for certain groups of children and failed to address all of children’s human rights to protection, provision and participation. The independent CRIA illuminates gaps in rights’ accountability, such as the lack of children’s rights indicators and disaggregated data, children’s inadequate access to complaints and justice, and the need for improved information to and participation of children.
... Quando olhamos para a diversidade sexual e de género na infância devemos ter presente as limitações impostas pelas normas sociais formuladas pelas pessoas adultas, que dificultam a compreensão enquanto sujeitos políticos e que influenciam a forma como incluímos as crianças nos processos democráticos ou aplicamos o quadro legal vigente (Sundhall 2017). A criança vê a sua vida determinada a partir de normas sociais formuladas pelas pessoas adultas de forma implícita e invisível, logo naturalizadas. ...
Full-text available
A partir de resultados do projeto europeu «Diversidade e Infância», cuja metodologia qualitativa e quantitativa envolveu crianças, jovens e profissionais de áreas como a educação, saúde e intervenção familiar, neste artigo são identificadas boas práticas enquanto medidas de ação afirmativa no mainstreaming LGBTI+, mas também os vazios e as resistências que afetam o quotidiano de crianças e jovens LGBTI+. Conhecer as perspetivas das diferentes partes intervenientes é um passo fundamental para ajustar a implementação, monitorização e aplicação de leis e medidas que visam garantir a igualdade e a não-discriminação em função da orientação sexual, identidade e expressão de género e características sexuais.
Full-text available
This study explores patterns of thought and movement in the living ‘body’ of playwork theory and practice, through firsthand experiences shared by adventure playground staff. Adventure playgrounds offer rich and dynamic environments within which children are primarily self-directed. Staff are expected to respond (rather than react) flexibly and reflectively to their cues, offering physical, emotional and material support to play processes while mitigating the impact of adult agendas. In doing so, playworkers draw and elaborate upon a shared theoretical framework and vocabulary. This practitioner- researcher study was closely informed by autoethnographic, grounded theory, and embodied approaches to qualitative research. Somatic paradigms are grounded in firsthand sensory knowledge, and recent years have seen significant interdisciplinary development and application of somatic concepts in dance and performance research as well as psychology, therapeutics, and critical social theory. Fieldwork at two adventure playgrounds in the USA formed the bulk of data for this study, which includes reflective playwork diaries, transcripts of team meetings, and interviews with colleague-participants. These illustrate complex ways in which playwork may be embodied by practitioners, and indicated an important gap between embodied nature of practice and its more abstract representation in playwork literature. Playwork interventions are specific to each site, relationship and moment, but may nonetheless share common underlying processes and influencing factors. A proposed somatic paradigm for playwork establishes connections between adventure playgrounds as ‘safe enough’ places for children to play freely, and ‘safe enough’ places for practitioners to learn, reflect, and change habitual patterns of interaction. This study explores embodied aspects of direct play support and reflective practices, and examines ‘the body’ implicit through conceptual metaphors in abstract language and theory. Finally, this study develops and presents a concept of reflective playwork capacity, with the hope of facilitating personal, professional and collective transformation in support of children’s play.
Full-text available
A universe of potentials may emerge as long as we define the present world as the digital age, where digital technologies have developed and caused new possibilities upon virtual space experiences. When we consider our existence on the planet from an ecological perspective, the risky universe reminds us that it is like the age of crises constituted by climate change. For sure, the expression of the age of crises is not only a human relationship with the environment; this definition also includes the troubles in society, hence, human rights crises. We face the concept of uncertainty, just at the intersection of the potentials and pitfalls, where other issues also stand. This paper aims to touch upon the possibilities of the digital world and the traps of ecological –and also political- crises through new childhood experiences so that I will try to bring a critical perspective against the perceptions of being a child as unclear/undefined by giving an illustration of various fieldworks with children. I will discuss the universe of potentials and pitfalls through an imaginary journey around uncertainty regarding the distinction indicated above; further, by suggesting other possibilities beyond this binary.
Moral education takes many guises, often taking place in schools, arguably because it is easier to socialise children into a desired way of being (Biesta, 2015). This assumes a particular view of the child, one that sees her as an entity to be moulded into what she will become, or what society wants her to become. Lipman (2003) advocates the need for a moral education that allows children to be part of a community. Such a view is premised on a different view of the child, one that sees her as being-in-and-of-the-world (Kennedy, 2010; Murris, 2013; Cassidy & Mohr Lone, 2020). Childism, that calls for a ‘profound ethical restructuring’ of society (Wall, 2010, p.3), may offer a perspective to moral education that allows us to strive for morally educated citizens. This chapter proposes that practical Philosophy with Children, as a pedagogy of compassion, has the potential to enable children to reflect on the world in which they live, what it means to live well and to take action towards that goal.
Full-text available
The matters of climate change are presently of concern existentially and ethically to the children and the youth. Worldwide school strikes in 2018–2019 and the Fridays for Future movement demonstrate how the young citizens assume socio-political responsibility. However, what possibilities do children and young people actually have to influence global discourse? Are adequate thought structures in place for them to be taken seriously in matters of concern to them? Given that children and youth engage with the issues of climate change, with a concern for their own future and that of our planet, the aim of this article was to take a child-centred ethical perspective and to theoretically explore conditions for intentional inclusion of children and their ethical concerns. In such a critical exploration, aspects of identity politics and intersectionality are reviewed. Empirical results from an interview study with children aged between 10 to 12 years are presented demonstrating that climate changes are of existential and ethical importance to them. Thereafter, a ‘childist’ perspective is introduced and discussed. The interviews were carried out during 2019 in eight schools in South Africa and Sweden. The children were individually interviewed with a method allowing for open responses. The schools in both countries were located in areas where a lack of water had been experienced. In this article, a theoretical framework is developed based on the ethical recognition of a commonly shared human responsibility and using the concept of ‘empowered inclusion’. It recognises children in their own right and identifies vulnerability and interdependence as being foundational to human existence. Contribution: In present times, as the concern for their own future, that of future generations and that of the planet is becoming an integral part of the identities of children and youth, both existentially and ethically, this article brings to this special issue a discussion of conditions for a child-centred view on human responsibility.
Full-text available
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) spells out many rights, including the right to participate in decision-making. Within an urban context, a child’s ‘right to the city’ includes the opportunity to participate in local governance. Youth councils (YCs) provide such opportunities. Using a nationwide survey in the United States, this paper describes YC characteristics and accomplishments. Findings show that YCs generally operate with little funding and are commonly administered within parks and recreation departments or city council offices. In addition, YCs created prior to the 1990s primarily addressed youth-related problems, whereas those created after 2000, focused more on leadership skills. Significant accomplishments reported by YCs include the development of leadership skills and knowledge of government, and community-based service projects. The conclusion considers the impact of YCs on furthering the goals of the CRC and giving youth access to decision-making.
Full-text available
Discussions concerning intersectionality have mainly focused on gender, class and ethnicity while the meaning of age is often disregarded. In this article we will open for a discussion about what the contributions in this context may be from an analysis of age and at the same time bring to the fore intersectionality analysis in the age based research. The article is partly constructed as an interplay between the research fields of sociology of childhood and social geronthology. Questions concerning the meaning of the age order for discussions about intersectionality are raised on the basis of these research fields. We also raise some issues about the conceptualization of intersectionality analysis. The discussion is for the most part exemplified by the interaction between gender and age.
Childhood faces humanity with its own deepest and most perplexing questions. An ethics that truly includes the world's childhoods would transcend pre-modern traditional communities and modern rational autonomy with a postmodern aim of growing responsibility. It would understand human relations in a poetic rather than universalistic sense as openly and interdependently creative. As a consequence, it would produce new understandings of moral being, time, and otherness, as well as of religion, rights, narrative, families, obligation, and power. Ethics in Light of Childhood fundamentally reimagines ethical thought and practice in light of the experiences of the third of humanity who are children. Much like humanism, feminism, womanism, and environmentalism, Wall argues, a new childism is required that transforms moral thinking, relations, and societies in fundamental ways. Wall explores childhood's varied impacts on ethical thinking throughout history, advances the emerging interdisciplinary field of childhood studies, and reexamines basic assumptions in contemporary moral theory and practice. In the process, he does not just apply ethics to childhood but applies childhood to ethics - in order to imagine a more expansive humanity. © 2010 by the Georgetown University Press. All rights reserved.
The idea of children's agency is central to the growing field of childhood studies. in this book David Oswell argues for new understandings of children's agency. He traces the transformation of children and childhood across the nineteenth, twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and explores the dramatic changes in recent years to children's everyday lives as a consequence of new networked, mobile technologies and new forms of globalisation. The author reviews existing theories of children's agency as well as providing the theoretical tools for thinking of children's agency as spatially, temporally and materially complex. With this in mind, he surveys the main issues in childhood studies, with chapters covering family, schooling, crime, health, consumer culture, work and human rights. This is a comprehensive text intended for students and academic researchers across the humanities and social sciences interested in the study of children and childhood.
Debates about children's rights not only concern those things that children have a right to have and to do but also our broader social and political community, and the moral and political status of the child within it. This book examines children's rights and citizenship in the USA, UK and Australia and analyses the policy, law and sociology that govern the transition from childhood to adulthood. By examining existing debates on childhood citizenship, the author pursues the claim that childhood is the most heavily governed period of a liberal individual's life, and argues that childhood is an intensely monitored period that involves a 'politics of becoming adult'. Drawing upon case studies from the USA, the UK and Australia, this concept is used to critically analyse debates and policy concerning children's citizenship, criminality, and sexuality. In doing so, the book seeks to uncover what informs and limits how we think about, talk about, and govern children's rights in liberal societies. This book will be of interest to students and scholars of political science, governance, social policy, ethics, politics of childhood and public policy.