Future Matters: Childhood and Global Citizenship in Times of Uncertainty

CFP for the AAA Annual Meeting “Anthropology Matters” in Washington DC, Nov. 29-Dec. 3, 2017 organized by Aviva Sinervo and Karina Vasilevska-Das.

In the beginning of the 21st century, scholars (Guyer 2007, Hartog 2015) point towards shifting temporal frameworks that engage the future though a newly found fixation on the present. The present, in turn, is perceived as fraught with an uncertainty that, Samian-Darash and Rabinow (2015) argue, provides new venues for anthropological inquiry. This panel explores various interpretations of childhood which ensue when global politics are narrated through uncertain times. We are particularly interested in the figure of the locally and globally “endangered child” that becomes a powerful mobilizer for action in times where the future is seen as unpredictable, scary and morally ambiguous. We consider how childhood is narrated and how children’s bodies and minds are managed in the context of the discourses and practices aimed to develop the latent and forceful potentiality of more desirable futures.

Children have been an important focus in many modern statehood projects (Cheney 2007, Foucault 1994, Kelly 2007, Weiss 2002) and are metaphorically fused with futurity (Fassin 2013, Malkki 2010) in global imaginations of citizenship and human rights. The taken-for-granted coupling of children and future in the political realm has been critiqued (Berlant 1997, Edelman 1998, Stockton 2003) as promoting a particular heteronormative engagement with the present. Nevertheless, children are most certainly also active participants in the processes that inform the global politics of childhood.

This panel will investigate how the current temporal uncertainty and discourse of “global emergency” is managed through the figure of the child as a representation of the future. In particular, the panel will inquire into how “the child” figures into state planning and imagination as well as how children and their parents imagine their own futures within the context of childhood in various national and transnational settings. While nation-states still translate a threat to their citizen-children as a threat to their national futures, it is increasingly clear that a globally endangered child, one not contained within state borders, is also being crafted through politics of childhood uncertainty. At the same time, children can be dynamic agents who actively anticipate their own futures in light of projected continuities and shifts in their worlds and beyond.

We encourage submissions that

  • investigate the intersection of global children’s rights discourse with specific practices of nation-states and the temporalities that they contain
  • inquire into current global emergencies in the context of childhood, for example, the refugee crisis, acute and chronic biomedical epidemics, global warming, famine, education revamping, socioeconomic development, and violence from war, terrorism, and impoverishment
  • study the market practices that produce global consumers and products, especially in the field of biopolitics as related to children
  • pay close attention to new practices and categories vis-à-vis children’s health and well-being that are enacted through local and global legislation in anticipation of the future.

Please send the title and abstract (250 words max) of your paper to karinadas@berkeley.edu by Monday, April 3rd, 2017 at 9 pm.

About the panel co-organizers:

Dr. Aviva Sinervo
San Francisco State University
Research interests: Tourism, International aid, Child labor, NGOs, Volunteerism, Affect, Peru

Karina Vasilevska-Das
The Joint Program in Medical Anthropology
Doctoral Student
UC Berkeley/UCSF
Research Interests: Childhood corporeality, Post-socialism, Future management in biomedicine, Latvia