Re-aligning children's agency and re-socialising children in Childhood Studies

Oswell, David. 2016. Re-aligning children's agency and re-socialising children in Childhood Studies. In: Florian Esser; Meike Baader; Tanja Betz and Beatrice Hungerland, eds. Reconceptualising Agency and Childhood: New Perspectives in Childhood Studies. London: Routledge, pp. 19-33. ISBN 1138854190 [Book Section]

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In Childhood Studies, in contrast to strands of thinking that have foregrounded a political emphasis on “child-centredness” (e.g. reference to standpoint theory [Alanen, 1994]) and a theoretical emphasis on the re exive agency of children in the context of social structure (James and Prout, 1990; James et al., 1998), there has been a line of thinking that has stressed the distributed, ontologically heterogeneous, and dependent capacities of children (Lee, 2001; Oswell, 2013; Prout, 2005). In the rst line of thinking, children’s agency is often discussed in the context of a sociological problematic concerning agency and structure, often resting on the theoretical premises of Anthony Giddens’ social theory; in the second, agency is often understood as distributed across “actor-networks” or “assemblages” in the context of “post-social” theories derived from Bruno Latour or Gilles Deleuze. In much of the literature in the eld, the distinctions between these two lines of thinking are often not made evident. However, where the differences are made evident, discussion often centres on the distinction between human-centred and post-humanist epistemologies of children’s agency. This chapter will frame these two lines of thinking about children and child- hood in the context of broader shifts in sociological understanding concerning the ontology of agency, the questioning of the scalar attributions of structure (macro) and agency (micro), and a methodological shift of focus from ethnog- raphy and discourse analysis (James and Prout, 1990) to what is often seen as a more “object-centred” focus on devices, descriptions, liveness and invention (Marres, 2012; Back and Puwar, 2012; Lury and Wakeford, 2013). In doing so, the intention is to refocus discussion on the question of children as a complex social collectivity and to offer a line of thinking t for understanding the place of children within an ontologically complex, interconnected, multi-mediated social world.

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Date Deposited:

13 Apr 2016 10:45

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29 Apr 2020 16:16


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