The Child in Question: Childhood Texts, Cultures and Curricula

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Curriculum Inquiry




What is a child? The concept of childhood is so familiar that we tend to assume its universality. As Davin (1999) notes, “We all ‘know’ what we mean by child and childhood. Yet its properties are multiple and elusive; its limits elastic” (p. 15). The lived experience of childhood is defined by the cultural and economic contexts in which it occurs, and thus, considering the vastly different experiences of children across the world and throughout history, it is impossible to imagine a universal definition. Indeed, the boundaries that differentiate children from adults shape the subjectivities of both. When we speak of the child, we are referring to the relationships, contexts and legacies through which the concept of childhood is mediated. Indeed, the meaning of childhood is always being negotiated not only by the imaginations of adults, but also by nations, markets, history and children themselves. Childhood is thus a discursive conflict zone upon which cultural, political and economic engagements are waged.