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CHYS 1F90 – Lecture 2
Week 2: Constructing Childhood
•There are diverse and sometimes conflicting beliefs about childhood.
•There are implications to various beliefs about childhood.
•Discourse is a concept used to understand childhood as a social construct.
What makes someone a child? – Imagination, innocence, age, carefree, exploration, dependency, striving
for independence, curiosity
I/ Innocent child vs. adult like child
A) Defining innocence
•Connected to a certain imagination, carefree attitude, playfulness.
•Linked up with magic
•Being outside of market relations. Talking about childhood as separate and no in junction with
production and consumption (work).
•Adults seem to be missing this, and long for it. You lose it as you grow up.
-Link to Enlightenment
-Jean Jacques Rousseau: Although modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only
begins with the knowledge of evil.
- He believed that children are born good and innocent, and society corrupts a child.
-Expansion to middle and working classes
C) Some consequences or effects
• Protection versus participation because children are so innocent. (Laws for seatbelts, drinking
age, laws against abuse etc.) Particular concerns for children as victims, but not to adults, because we want
to protect their innocence. Children’s participation in society has been cut down due to concerns about
protection. How do you prepare a child for the world? Exploit them to mature things, or keep them from it?
-Eg general vulnerability, victimhood, participation
- Children are not treated the same as adults (ex. Court of law) In Canada when you turn 12, that is when
you gain criminal responsibilities for your actions.
- Children endure hardships (getting voice heard, neglected, separation, etc.)
- Threat of having been sexualized (images of young children being used)
D) Complicated: Innocence and Consumption
•Using innocence as a marketing tool
- In order to sell products to adults
- Thomas argues that children don’t learn much under the age of 2 years old, except that they are watching
television and brands (ex. Sesame Street, Barney). They essentially learn the brands too (branding).
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