Moving On from Social Constructionism: confronting hybrid childhoods
Despite a period of energetic development and high productivity, the ‘new sociology of childhood’ has met the limits of the possibilities opened up by social constructionism. This paper explores this problem, suggesting what its causes may be and pointing to some possible remedies. It is argued that the construction of a sociology of childhood entailed a double task. First, space had to be created for childhood within sociological discourse. Second, the increasing complexity and ambiguity of childhood as a contemporary, destabilised phenomenon had to be confronted. It is argued that, whilst a space for childhood has been created, this was accomplished largely in terms of modernist sociology, a discourse that was increasingly unable to deal adequately with the destabilised world of late modernity. An important aspect of this problem is apparent in the reproduction within the sociology of childhood of the dichotomised oppositions that characterise modernist sociology. It is suggested that moving the sociology of childhood beyond the grip of such modernist thinking entails four moves: a deconstructive move that considers the ground from which dichotomies are erected and which transforms gradients into oppositions; a materialist move that considers childhood as both discursive and material (language and bodies and technologies and artefacts); a move to greater relationality in thinking childhood; and, consequently, an interdisciplinary move that explores forms of childhood as emergent through a social-linguistic-biological-technological network.
Toddlers’ life-worlds and the communication of values in preschool
In this presentation, I will address the life-worlds of young children and the communication of values in preschool. The proposition here is that values are present even in the lives of the youngest children as they communicate their preferences for good and bad, right and wrong in interactions with others. How then can we as researchers interpret interactions between young children in terms of values? And how can we claim that such interpretations are based on the children’s point of view? What kind of processes and considerations lead to such conclusions and in what ways can they be said to be legitimate expressions of children’s perspectives of morality? I will address these issues by discussing the link between Merleau-Pontyan phenomenology (1962) and sensory pedagogy as presented by Pink (2009). This kind of sensory pedagogy challenges teachers and researchers to understand and encounter children through their embodied mind and senses. The idea of the embodied and intertwined existence of the child, the pedagogue, the researcher and the world is here crucial. According to the theory of ethics proposed by Knud Løgstrup (1994) we are given to each other, implying that power is always present in human relations. We are always locked in this relation of dependence and responsibility for the other. Such circumstances also touch upon closeness versus distance in encounters with the children observed, and on the ambiguity of horizons among the persons involved in the encounters.
The value of children and ethnic identity: the North in the 20th Century
What has been the value of children in the 20th century? The answer depends on our definition of values, whose values we are talking about and, not least what children. My paper will deal with how state authorities and local societies in Finland, Norway and Sweden have valued Sami children. The sources are related to school politics and, towards the end of the century, other child-related fields. The paper will open with a brief presentation of a few seminal studies on the value of children in different historical contexts. Furthermore it will discuss how notions of Sami identity became intertwined with notions of children’s value. It will be argued that the issue of identity in some cases overshadowed other values attached to children, and with that in mind, this paper will discuss what was at stake for both the majority and the minority in gaining defining power over the value of children.
Challenging children, challenging situations – challenging values
A growing number of children and young people are referred every year to child protection services in Finland. In 2012 the number of mandatory reports and joint referrals was over 100 000 concerning 64 000 children and youngsters. Especially young people of over 13 years of age were fed into the child protection system. The overflow of clients challenges the child protection services and raises serious questions over the action logic of the whole system. Traditionally the Finnish child welfare system has been classified as being family oriented, as offering support to the children and their families mainly on a voluntary basis. In recent years, there have been conflicting developmental trajectories in the system: on the one hand towards a participatory child focus, and on the other, towards a stricter child protection orientation. In my presentation I will look into what we know about the children and young people entering the child protection services. In what ways are they and their families challenged in their lives and what are the system responses? My main focus is on views of children, young people and their parents. How do they see the present state of the child protection system and what could we learn from them?
Ethnography with Children: Conversations, Movement and Imaginative leaps
The study of children and young people’s everyday life can be seen as an engagement of ‘ethnographic imagination’. This is an in-depth and intense form of scientific inquiry during which the ethnographer share in the ‘time-spaces’ of children, young people and others through history and change. Through examples, I will show how this requires the ethnographer to engage with ethnography as art form, science and craft practice. Particular attention will be given to the centrality of participant-observation – as a dialogical practice – key to investigating and understanding children’s experiences. I will address classic ethnographic challenges such as capturing fluidity, momentary and occasional events and discuss what intuition and imagination have to offer ethnographic practice. The presentation concludes by asking to what extent the employment of innovative methodologies and new technologies may assist researchers studying the lives of children and young people in the 21st Century.