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Conference Theme:  Childhood and Diversity – Multiple Childhoods?

The expansion of the field of Sociology of Childhood has allowed for the exploration of numerous objects and themes related to childhood, but we consider that it is time to revisit the field from an angle that has not received the attention it deserves. As we were strongly emphasizing the paradigm of the ‘child actor’, have we kept in mind that the ‘child’ and ‘childhood’ are  actually representing children and childhoods, which can be very different and diverse?

Several sociologists of childhood have affirmed that childhood is a structural category alongside with others, such as social class, ethnic origin, gender, generation, etc. To what extent have we considered the interaction of those different variables and their influence on how childhood is represented in different contexts and cultures?

As Francophone sociology of childhood has leaned strongly towards the concept of the child actor, it is necessary to revisit the aspects of childhood where the negotiating and acting child encounters social and cultural determination. How does a child experience social reality when it does not correspond to the hegemonic image of identity: white, middle class, pupil, without accent and able-bodied? This question also invites us to think about how our recent research projects have been shaped by the choice of subjects. It is possible that our current conception of sociology of childhood is guided too much by studying populations corresponding to the markers of hegemonic identity , which also correspond to the image of the majority of (European and North American) researchers in the field.

For our conference, we are submitting the following question to our potential participants: How to reconsider Sociology of Childhood under the perspective of diversity? Our inquiry is situated on four different levels:

1.     Epistemological: If the paradigm of the child actor is the major foundation and point of entrance to Sociology of Childhood, how can we integrate and articulate the structural and classical variables of sociology such as social, ethnic, linguistic origin or gender into our reflections about childhood? Instead of talking about childhood, should we rather talk about ‘childhoods’, as the experience of studied groups of children can be very different according to the context in which those children grow up and their dispositions?

2.     Methodological and ethical: If the context and the dispositions of children themselves have a more important role to play in the field of Sociology of Childhood, how can we adapt the role of the researcher in the research process? What is the role of adult or children experts who have a good deal of knowledge about  the context and the community? Do we need different methodological approaches in order to better capture the reality of childhoods, which do not resemble the reality of the researcher? In this endeavor, what value does knowledge have from related fields, such as anthropology, other sociological disciplines or other social sciences?

3.     Empirical: Researching diverse childhoods in order to discover the terra incognita has been one of the declared goals of Sociology of Childhood. Which are the ‘continents’ of childhoods in the different contexts? How are cultural, social, ethnic and linguistic diversity expressed at the level of childhood? How does  childhood in the construction of the classical categories lead to the empirical and theoretical reconstruction of those variables? How does the unschooled child and the working child disrupt the sociological analysis of the child actor?

4.     Sociopolitical: Suggesting that the development of Sociology of Childhood has accompanied the evolution of the status of the child, some have attributed an activist role to the Sociologist of Childhood. Thus, Sociology of Childhood would not only  expand knowledge about childhood, but also use this knowledge in order to improve the circumstances of children’s lives. What is the connection between better knowing diverse childhoods, the empowerment of children and social politics?

P     Paper proposals submission (1000 characters with spaces), in French or English, by                               Monday January 28th 2013. Submit a proposal via the Online Submission Form.


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