‘Childhood Studies in the Anthropocene’

International Conference

University of Birmingham, UK, 6th-7th June 2017

Call for papers

Since the turn of the millennium, scientists have been warning that a ‘great acceleration’ in human extractive and consumptive activities has fundamentally changed the earth’s geo-biospheric systems, causing the relatively stable Holocene era to tip into what they are suggesting be called the Anthropocene – literally a new era of ’Humans’ (Crutzen, 2000; Steffen et al, 2007). The proposed naming of the Anthropocene has spawned a cascade of interdisciplinary debates, the establishment of a number of dedicated Anthropocene peer reviewed journals and academic book series, and a plethora of peak international Anthropocene-themed conferences. Across the social sciences and humanities, many are calling for an interruption to the ‘business-as-usual’ of research and scholarship. They claim that the Anthropocene requires a paradigm shift in understanding about what it means to be human, a reframing of our sense of relative power ‘over’ whole-earth systems, and, therefore a radical reconsideration of the relationship between the social and natural worlds, fates and futures (Gibson et al 2015; Hamilton 2016).

Through these debates, the Anthropocene has emerged as a figure of uncertain and precarious futures, requiring new kinds of thought and action. A key concern is that, although the Anthropocene appears to entail ostensibly universal changes in whole-earth systems, the effects of such changes are likely to be patterned unequally in both geographical and social terms. Significantly, Anthropocene futures are not only those that 21st century children will inherit, but there has been little consideration as to whether and how particular groups of children, in particular places, will become entangled with Anthropocene change in different ways. It is therefore time for the field of childhood studies to engage more fully with, and to contribute more directly to, the broader Anthropocene debates.

This conference will be the first in the field to provoke such direct engagement and contribution by asking: What might the figure of the Anthropocene provoke within 21st century childhood studies?

We invite a range of Anthropocene-attuned (and Anthropocene-critical) perspectives on any of the following issues. We welcome abstracts from any discipline, and would particularly encourage submissions from beyond the social sciences – including scholars working from/with the humanities, life and environmental sciences, medicine, engineering and earth sciences.

• The issue of scale: How might we conduct research that addresses the Anthropocene’s local/global implications for 21st century childhoods?

• The issue of time: How might the figure of the Anthropocene prompt us to rethink the urgency, and/or multiple temporal scales of our childhood research and of 21st century children’s futures?

• Epistemological issues: How might the figure of the Anthropocene interrupt and/or reconfigure our thinking about 21st century childhoods? If the figure of the Anthropocene signals the death of nature as we knew it, how might this prompt us to rethink the powerful epistemological connections that have been made between childhood and nature? How might these extend or challenge recent theorising in a ‘new wave’ or ‘infra-paradigm’ of childhood studies, that is concerned with questions of ‘more-than-social’ childhoods?

• Ontological issues: How might children’s lived experiences and relations with other species and entities within their local environments help us to think differently about human being in the Anthropocene?

• Ethical issues: What are our responsibilities, as childhood scholars, to address the intergenerational and environmental justice issues posed by the Anthropocene? What do these mean for new (or established) modes of public engagement?

• Material issues: How might the Anthropocene configure new materialities of childhood – from the composition of children’s bodies, the food they eat and their health, to children’s engagements in processes such as raw material extraction, the construction industries, the processing of waste and the generation/consumption of energy? How might forms of relational or ‘nexus’ thinking enable us to adequately broach such entangled materialities in ways that also attend to the particularities of being young, in the first part of the twenty-first century?

• Political issues: What are some of the political implications of the figure of the Anthropocene for the study of 21st century childhoods? How might this figure be deployed to further particular political agendas and/or to expose existing power relations? In what ways does the figure of the Anthropocene engage or extend beyond traditional terms of political debate in childhood studies – around voice, agency, rights and participation, for instance?

• Issues of differentiation: Does the Anthropocene further differentiate the radically uneven lived experiences of 21st century children? Will the futures of children in some parts of the world be more adversely affected than others?

• Disciplinary and methodological issues: What new modes of inquiry, what methods, and what inter-/cross-/trans-disciplinary alliances, might be necessary for witnessing how childhoods are entangled with the Anthropocene? How might social-scientific scholarship in childhood studies engage with disciplines such as history, medicine, nanoscience, archaeology, and architecture?

• Pedagogical issues: What new pedagogies might be necessary given the uncertain ecological future we bequeath to children and intensifying concerns for sustainability?

Format and submitting an abstract

The conference will comprise two keynotes with associated paper sessions, and more open fora for critical and creative discussion.

We are hoping to publish papers from the conference in a special journal issue of the journal Discourse.

We welcome abstracts for 15-minute papers on any of the above topics.

Please send your abstract (no more than 200 words) to Professor Peter Kraftl (p.kraftl@bham.ac.uk)

Deadline: 31st March 2017

Please also contact Peter if you would like to make an informal inquiry about the conference.