The refugee crisis puts into sharp relief what scholars in childhood studies have been arguing for some time now – that children hold a key position in society in the here and now, bounded by social structures but also shaped by children’s own agency. When children are trying to cross geographical boundaries, especially when they do so without their parents, this highlights the ambiguities in the operation of age boundaries and perceptions of entitlement, and the relationship between the national and the transnational.
Rachel Rosen explores ambivalent media representations of separated migrant children as represented in British tabloids during 2016, when much media attention focused on the plight of children. Child refugees are represented both as vulnerable and in need of saving and as a risk and a problem to British society. Rosen argues that the media can simultaneously sustain such contradictory views by preserving an essentialised view of the child, grounded in racialized, Eurocentric and (neo)liberal norms. The research highlights the increasing contestation of the authenticity of child refugees as they began arriving in the UK under Dubs, and raises questions about the political implications of framing hospitality in the name of ‘the child’.
Pascale Garnier focuses on the dismantling of the Calais ‘jungle’ in which around 1,900 un-accompanied children were obliged to leave. The presentation highlights how children’s lives are highly vulnerable in a situation of liminality, characterized by the ambiguity or confusion of the identities of people between separation and integration. There are three dimensions of liminality: spatial, between borders of national states; social, between the absence and presence of their family; and status, as ‘children’ and ‘not children’. Together they give rise to an unliveable life as human beings. This situation of liminality between being with and without a family, between dependency and independency troubles the binary dichotomy between children and adults.
Media Representations of Child Refugees: From Dubs to Doubt
1University College London, United Kingdom; 2Open University, United Kingdom
The image of Alan Kurdi, the Kurdish-Syrian toddler and refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean, galvanised an international outcry following its widespread circulation by global media outlets. This is considered the moment when the ‘horrific human costs’ of migration hit home for the European public (Daily Mail, 2015). Concurrently, there are concerns about rising right-wing populism and anti-migrant sentiment, with the media both documenting and instigating such views (Bleich, Bloemraad et al. 2015). In this paper, we consider ambivalent media representations, focusing specially on separated migrant children. We analyse coverage in five English tabloids between the introduction of the 2016 Dubs Amendment, which committed to relocating an unspecified number of unaccompanied minors to the UK, until the demolition of the refugee camp in Calais, where much media attention focused on the plight of children. Drawing on Crawley (2011), we suggest that child refugees are, on the one hand, represented as vulnerable and in need of saving and, on the other, treated as a risk and a problem to British society and institutions for reasons of both security and cost. We argue that the media can simultaneously sustain such contradictory views by preserving an essentialised view of the child, grounded in racialized, Eurocentric and (neo)liberal norms. By taking a temporal view of tabloid coverage, we highlight the increasing contestation of the authenticity of child refugees as they began arriving in the UK under Dubs, and raise questions about the political implications of framing hospitality in the name of ‘the child’.
Rachel Rosen is a Lecturer in Childhood at UCL Institute of Education. Her research spans sociology of childhood and materialist feminist thought, with a focus on unequal childhoods, migration and social reproduction. She is co-author of Negotiating Adult-child Relationships in Early Childhood Research, which develops a Bakhtinian ethics of answerability, and is currently co-editing Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or Foes?
Sarah Crafter is a Senior Lecturer at The Open University. Her theoretical and conceptual interests are grounded in sociocultural theory, transitions, critical or contested ideas of ‘normative’ development and cultural identity development. Her recent work focused on the practice of child language brokering (translating and interpreting for parents who do not speak the local language following migration).
Currently, Rosen and Crafter are collaborating on research about separated child migrants’ experiences of care, and caring for others, as they navigate the complexities of the UK’s asylum-welfare nexus.
“Children of Calais”: Precarious Lives Between French and English Borders
University Paris 13, France
Since the beginning of November 2016, the jungle of Calais has been dismantled and around 1.900 “un-accompanied children” have been obliged to leave it. Most of them have been sent to the “centres d’acceuil et d’orientation” (CAO, reception and guidance centre) recently opened in France and some of them have been accepted into England. This presentation aims to highlight how children’s lives are highly vulnerable in a situation of liminality, a concept introduced by Van Gennep (1908), as the core stage of the “rites of passage”, characterized by the ambiguity or confusion of the identities of people between separation and integration. This situation of liminality involves three dimensions: the liminality of space between boarders of national states, the liminality between the absence and presence of their family, which emphasize the liminality of their age, as “children” and “not children”. Together they give rise to an unliveable life as human beings.
As “un-accompanied” minors, children are at the same time inside and outside their family, having to live independently and to take responsibility for their own lives, but at the same time they are dependent or claiming that they belong to a family. To be a child means to have his/her identity rooted in one’s family, in terms of social class, nationality, race and ethnicity, religion and culture, including the various meanings of age and family in his/her culture. This situation of liminality between being with and without a family, between dependency and independency troubles the binary dichotomy between children and adults.
Pascale GARNIER’s PhD (EHESS, Paris, 1992), under the supervision of Luc Boltanski, was about an historical sociology of childhood in France, analysing how competences and best interests of children are matter of debates and tests. Within a pragmatic approach of children’s life, adults’ practices and material culture, her researches consider age categorizations as political and moral orders. Recent publications: “Childhood as a Question of Critiques and Justifications”, Childhood, 21(4), 2014); “Between young children and adults: practical logic in families’ lives”, in L. Alanen, L. Brooker & B. Mayall (eds.). Studying Childhood with Bourdieu, 2015); “For a pragmatic approach of children’s citizenship”, in H. Warning & K. Fahnøe (eds.), Lived citizenship on the edge of society, forthcoming); Sociologie de l’école maternelle (PUF, 2016); Recherches avec les jeunes enfants: perspectives internationales (avec S. Rayna, P. Lang, 2017). She is professor in education sciences, head of the research team Experice, in Paris 13 University, Sorbonne Paris Cité.