[URBANTH-L] CFP AAA 2009: Youth and Childhood Researchers as Cultural Critics

Elsa Davidson elsadavidson at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 18 16:14:10 EDT 2009

AAA 2009 Panel: 
Researching American Youth and Childhood: Anthropologists as Cultural Critics

Please respond to Elsa Davidson (elsadavidson at yahoo.com) or Nicole Laborde (nicoledlaborde at gmail.com). 

Focused on the anthropology of childhood and youth, this panel explores the theme of the anthropologist as cultural critic in relation to public discourse about childhood, youth, and/or parenting. Over the past two decades or so, knowledge and opinion about children’s well-being, youth crime/punishment, educational disadvantages, children’s sexuality, and children’s learning/cognitive/emotional/social disorders has proliferated within multiple fields of expertise as well as within the press. Such public and experts’ discourse has often pathologized youth of color, reinforced white middle class conceptions of childhood/youth and parenthood, and articulated with political and economic realities shaping working and middle class Americans’ everyday lives (e.g. over-scheduled and pressured children, forms of neglect, strategies of discipline and care). In addition, the argument can be made that public and experts’ discussion of the above-mentioned
 kinds of childhood/youth issues has served to articulate new ideals of citizenship in the contemporary U.S. 

We seek papers that address any of the following issues:
(1)	How do anthropologists focused on childhood and youth engage or disrupt such public, “expert” and journalistic discourse about children/childhood and parenting in the course of conducting ethnographic research or disseminating anthropological knowledge? 
(2)	How might anthropological theory and ethnographic practice help to frame/critique/contest American public discourse about youth/childhood and parenting? 
(3)	As researchers, writers, and activists, how do or how might anthropologists engage or intervene in contemporary strategies of governance or racial/class/gender politics that depend upon particular constructions of children/youth/parents?
(4)	How do parents, youth, children and their advocates engage dominant representations of youth/children/parents and what role, if any, might anthropologists have in this process?

We invite papers that draw on original fieldwork, applied anthropology, or research-related activism to engage key arenas of contemporary American public discourse about childhood and youth and/or parenting, and to reflect upon ways to bridge academic and public spheres. We would like to know how panelists engage contemporary expert and/or media discourses about youth/childhood in their work or in the field, how they feel that such discourses about youth and childhood affect their informants, how they negotiate being in the public sphere, and what they think ideal forms of public engagement are or should be for anthropologists working on childhood/youth issues.

Note: We anticipate papers from those whose research focuses on the United States, but we are also interested in papers that address transnational or international contexts as long as the issues addressed in the paper relate to American discourses of youth/childhood (for exmple, one possible context would be the dominance of American models of youth/childhood in development projects).


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