Although there is a realization in Western society today that childhood is changing, the topic remains clouded in confusion and contradictory viewpoints. The central question, if and how the nature of childhood itself has changed, has led the author to conduct a metabletic inquiry. Metabletics or the science of change is a human science research approach that incorporates phenomenological methods and seeks to understand a phenomenon by taking its historical development, its social cultural context and relevant synchronistic developments into account. In exploring the changing nature of childhood, historical, metabletic, and phenomenological studies were consulted as well as some selected sources from literature, art, and entertainment that portray the lives of children and, in particular, of boys in the past and in the present. First, a brief historical perspective on the changing nature of childhood from traditional to modern times is presented. This is followed by the concept of modern childhood and its transition to a postmodern childhood. The author aims to describe the essential characteristics of childhood with a focus on boyhood as lived in different historical time periods in order to contribute to a clearer understanding of its changing nature. The present study is exploratory and opens a vast domain that awaits further detailed investigations.
A Metabletic Study
Bonnie S. Kaufman
Review of Vicky Lebeau, CHILDHOOD AND CINEMA
A Discussion of American Girl Doll Nostalgia
The American Girl brand of historical dolls and books celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2011. The girls who first played with American Girl dolls in the 1980s and 1990s are now grown women; their nostalgia for the brand is passionate and complicated, and reminiscences from nineteen such women are the focus of this study. Their nostalgic responses are thoughtful and reflective, at turns unabashedly admiring and astutely critical. The women fondly recall American Girl whilst simultaneously criticizing the company for its consumerism and its representations of American history and American girlhood. Their memories show how nostalgia can be ambivalent and contradictory, and how adults can use childhood nostalgia to reinforce and construct identity narratives.
This article examines perceptions of colonial modernity as experienced by middle-class Bengali children in Calcutta at the turn of the twentieth century. This was the time in which the foundations of modern Calcutta and modern Bengali childhood were laid, and in which urban cultures of education and entertainment gradually replaced precolonial patterns of childhood. This article examines these transformations and assesses their role in the formation of new social norms that were to define middle-class Bengali childhood until the end of the twentieth century.
Autistic Children and the Normativity of Play in Postwar France
In postwar France, the definition of play helped to situate the meaning of childhood in a manner that marginalized disabled children from the common understanding of childhood. Three thinkers—Françoise Dolto, Maud Mannoni, and Fernand Deligny—all advocated more nuanced and open definitions of play that allowed for the recognition of disabled children’s forms of play, which often operated outside of social norms. In their practices, each of these thinkers articulated new interpretations of play that expanded its meaning in social and therapeutic contexts. This recognition was important in questioning the isolation of disabled children, in identifying their belonging among other children, and in revealing the changing boundaries of definitions of childhood.
The Civilizing Project in the Danish Kindergarten
Karen Fog Olwig
The increasing institutionalization of childhood in Western societies has generated concern in the social sciences regarding the disciplinary and regulating regimes of institutions and their presumed constraints on children's social interaction. This article argues that institutions for children can also enable such social interaction. Drawing on Norbert Elias's proposal that child rearing entails a civilizing project, this article contends that being 'not-yet-civilized' enables children to draw on a wide range of emotions and bodily expressions that are unavailable to adults. Through an analysis of life stories narrated by Danish youths, it is shown that common grounds of interaction were established in early childhood, allowing them to turn this adultconstructed institution into a place of their own where they could develop a sense of sociality.
Adoption Legislation in Norway and the US
Legislation about personal behavior, such as family law, clearly manifests concerns about individual and relational rights and duties. With a focus on adoption laws in Norway and the US and on two international conventions (the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption), I examine different cultural values regarding childhood and parenthood, both historically and comparatively. Accompanying the recent growth of transnational adoption in Western Europe and North America, issues about what might constitute 'the best interest of the child' have become central in influential welfare circles of European countries that receive children in adoption and are reflected on a global level through the conventions.
Working at the nexus of medical anthropology and the anthropology of childhood, this article challenges three assumptions often embedded in child health policy: (1) children are the passive recipients of healthcare; (2) children’s knowledge of illness and their body can be assumed based on adult understandings; and (3) children’s healthcare can be isolated from their social relations. I explore these themes through the case study of a 2011 New Zealand government initiative to reduce the rates of rheumatic fever affecting low-income Māori and Pasifika children. Drawing on fieldwork with around 80 children at an Auckland primary school, I show how the ‘sore throat’ programme does not merely treat streptococcus A infections, but plays an active role in constituting children’s experiences and understandings of their bodies and illness, and in shaping healthcare practices in ways unintended by policy-makers.
Ideas about childhood and children’s experiences in a tribal area in southwest Iran have been changing along with major local sociopolitical relations over the past century quite in accordance with the functionalist model of education and socialization. However, in the most recent stage – a globalizing, consumer-driven society in a closed, totalitarian political system – child-rearing prepares children to have great aspirations and be dedicated consumers without furnishing opportunities and habits to attain the one and sustain the other. The ethnographic details about this development described in this article in the format of three stages are based on longitudinal anthropological fieldwork in Boir Ahmad over 50 years.
The article is based on ethnographic fieldwork in two field sites in Oslo, Norway, that involved a sample of sixty-seven children. I discuss how ten year-old girls do gender and romance in the light of “junior” and “senior” (hetero)sexuality in the social context of romance. Considering the Norwegian media's worry concerning a presumed sexualization of childhood and the disappearance of childhood, I describe in detail what happens between partners in what is known as a going-out-with-relationship. These relationships, primarily characterized by play and not by physical intimacy, illustrate that sexual innocence in childhood still exists.