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`Lived’ Childhoods: Theorising the Social Conditions of Children’s Citizenship

Tom Cockburn

Childhood Studies and the Sociology of Childhood has focused on retrieving the agency of children. Children now are considered `beings in themselves’ and few papers at this conference deny the richness of children’s agency in the social contexts in which they are activated. Childhood Studies scholars also seek to capture the everyday contexts in which children’s lives are lived. However, this is not to say that there are not challenges to theorising children’s lives. These challenges are political; amidst the recent debates around Brexit, rampant global nationalisms, neo-liberal austerity agendas, a hostility to migrants and climate change to name arguably the most pressing. However, the challenges come from social scientific theories as well. Relational theories and the post-human turn urge childhood studies to go beyond its focus on agency and develop theories that emphasise relationships, a problematisation of `voice’, the reflexivity of researchers and the importance of reaching out to less Euro-centric influences.

These raise important questions when we consider the citizenship of children. This talk will explore the framework of children’s citizenship in the UK today by exploring the social conditions of `lived’ childhoods and the challenges for children, their carers and those who work with them. It will also identify a number of key theoretical challenges necessary for researchers to engage with. The talk, perhaps disappointingly, will raise more questions than provide answers.