Anthropology of Childhood and Youth Interest Group

Met with the Society for Cross-Cultural Research for the second time this February.  Prof. Jill White organized a session (see below for the session and paper abstract) and presented a paper.  Next year the ACYIG will meet in conjunction with the Society for Psychological Anthropology in April somewhere in Southern California.

Constructing a Child Self across Contested Spaces

The social construction of childhood is an inherently political process in which heterogeneous  actors may become engaged.  In the contexts of nation building and dissolution,  struggles over liberation and rights of refugees, diaspora and national identity , defining childhood in certain ways is a discursive tool that allows the state to set forth ideals, make claims regarding its own morality, and set its priorities.  The state’s construction of childhood is itself not unitary; besides possibly consisting of multiple political parties or ideological blocs, every state will necessarily consist of multiple bureaucracies and agencies charged with carrying out the policies regarding children.  A state’s control over its public education system is a particularly powerful example.  Moreover, inside every state, children are exposed to alternate and sometimes conflicting constructions of childhood from non-governmental organizations, religious institutions and family members.  This session will explore examples of children negotiating the construction of the self in contexts of diverse adult agendas.

The State, The Royal Family, and the Child: Negotiating Old and New Childhoods in Jordan

Jill Collins White

The country of Jordan is currently enmeshed in a contest over how childhood ought to be defined.   The state, in the form of key Ministries such as that of Education, Social Development and Health, each have a stake in defining childhood in certain ways.  Each ministry has its own priorities and agendas, which are complicated by factionalism and partisanship.  The royal Hashemite family have initiated several projects to improve the lives of children, working outside the constitutional framework of the government.  Such projects – a Children’s Museum, computer clubs, shelters for victims of child abuse, as well as private schools – also enable each royal to promulgate his or her own vision of children and childhood.  As children are exposed to competing discourses in the media, at school, and by coming into contact with various agencies and non-governmental organizations, they must make sense of these diverse visions and navigate a course through them.  The pathways they choose, however, sometimes put them in conflict with parental and familial theories of childhood and the rights and responsibilities pertaining thereto.

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