Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN04_08: Boundaries and Generationing
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Randi Dyblie Nilsen, NTNU
Location: GM.327
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road
Time allocation: 15' presentation directly followed by 5' consecutive discussion on the paper presented, and at the end of the session 10' general discussion of all papers presented in the session.

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No Diapers, Not a Baby Anymore! Constructing “Babyhood” as an Age Boundary while Toilet Training

Victoria Chantseva

University Paris 13, France

Different conceptions of growing up are sources of multiple tensions in the field of the sociology of childhood and children, as well as in everyday practices. The modern child-rearing is torn by conflicting precepts. On the one hand, the parents must give the child time to grow by respecting his needs for care and protection. On the other hand, they should nurture him to become autonomous. Indeed, the increasing social value of the childhood restricts forcing the child to grow up, but at the same time, many aspects of early childhood education consist of pushing children to quit the “infantile” attitudes or attributes by challenging them and emphasizing the benefits of being a “big boy” or a “big girl”. Being a child appears as a discrete period composed of both rhetorical and material “milestones” to pass.

Using the example of toilet-training, this paper aims to explore the construction of children’s agency and of growing-up as a sequence of stages and barriers to surmount. The empirical data comes from an ongoing sociological study of toilet-training in different cultural contexts (France, Norway, Russia) that includes the analysis of childcare books for parents, toilet training books for children, interviews with parents and observations in educational settings. The comparison of different methods shows that the more the toilet-training is conceptualized as something that depends on child’s will, the more it is presented as a “rite of passage”. The test of crossing a symbolic border may be ratified by some market products or by institutions.

Symbolic Boundaries Of Time: Exploring The Production Of Temporal Socialisation

Stine Karen Nissen

Aarhus University, Denmark

According to Elias (1992), in order to take up the position of an adult in society, children must learn how to regulate their behaviour and feelings to make them compatible with the social institution of time. As implied here, temporal dimensions can be highlighted as important boundaries when approaching ideas of the child in various settings (James et al. 2016). In exploring the concept of temporal socialisation (Darmon, 2018), this study sheds light on various symbolic and moral dimensions at play when children struggle with disparities between individual and collective temporal frameworks. In contrast to studies that depict children as workers or students from whom all knowledge of time was deliberately withheld as a means of power (Kydd, 1857; Lærke, 1998), this study shows children who are expected to know, embody and practice time in multiple ways. Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out among first, sixth and ninth grade children in Danish schools, the study draws on a particular institutional setting to examine what, how and why certain temporal attitudes are made more significant than others. The purpose of this paper is to: 1) pay attention to culturally specific and age-appropriate temporal norms in terms of temporal socialisation and to 2) show how these norms are contested, produced and reproduced through everyday practices involved in the transformation and diversity of children’s classifications of time.

Childhood in Germany – The View of Refugee Children

Alexandra König, Jessica Schwittek

University Duisburg-Essen, Germany

An „anthopological view” characterizes an observer who is a stranger to the group or culture under study. Relating to this, we assume that children who have recently migrated to an unfamiliar country may have such an „anthropological view“ on local childhood. In an ongoing project, we examine refugee children’s views of childhood in Germany, focusing particularly on the way they acquire knowledge of the generational (and social) order and how they manage their own position in it.

Our study focuses on refugee children who have lived in Germany for about two years. We combine three kinds of data: interviews, group discussions and photo-centered chats. In the group discussions, participants were asked to describe childhood in Germany. Although not explicitly asked to do so, they contrasted childhood in Germany with childhood in their home countries, bringing up a broad variety of topics such as teachers’ and parents’ expectations towards children, concepts of friendship and children’s safety in the public space. However, the interviews show the heterogeneity of (generational) expectations perceived and managed by children in different social worlds (family, school, peers). As they identify differences and similarities concerning their social worlds in both (sometimes: several) localities, differences in concepts of childhood and generational order become tangible. In line with the topic of this conference we will discuss our first results against the background of the questions 1) How are boundaries between adulthood and childhood drawn within different social worlds? 2) To what extent are (contradictorary) generational expectations perceived as barriers and how are they managed?

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