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Avoid: the big society

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Title: Avoid: the big society Author: Erica Burman Last modified by: R Holmes Created Date: 3/5/2012 10:39:00 AM Document presentation format: On-screen Show (4:3) – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Avoid: the big society


1
Avoid the big society
  • Erica Burman
  • Discourse Unit/RIHSC/ESRI
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • e.burman_at_mmu.ac.uk

2
A sideways look at ethics, interdisciplinarity
and the state of the society and world in which
children are growing up
3
Two senses of avoid Three concerns
  1. Elaborating strategies for distancing/disentanglin
    g ourselves from neoliberal Big society agendas
  2. Navigating a way through the complex discussions
    around the question of disciplines in childhood
    studies
  3. Thinking through practices of managing
    disciplinary interpellations in both public
    policy and in methodological discussions

4
Two very idiosyncratic - associations (and
inter/disciplinary contributions?)
  • 1. Kessen (1979 1993) on The child as a
    cultural invention
  • The tendency to assign personal responsibility
    for the successes and failures of development is
    an amalgam of the positivistic search for causes,
    of the older Western tradition of personal moral
    responsibility, and of the conviction that
    personal mastery and consequent personal
    responsibility are first among the goals of
    child-rearing. It is difficult to imagine an
    American child without a core commitment to the
    proposition that someone is responsible for what
    happens in development

5
  • The child like the Pilgrim, the cowboy, and
    the detective on television is invariably seen
    as a free-standing isolatable being who moves
    through development as a self-contained and
    complete individual. (Kessen, 1979 819)
  • source Kessen (1979) The American child and
    other cultural inventions, American
    Psychologist, 34, 10 815-820.
  • Also inspired the inter/cross disciplinary
    collection
  • Kessel, F. and Siegal, A (eds.) (1983) The child
    and other cultural inventions. New York Praegar.

6
Kessen (1993) on Avoiding the emptiness
  • The assignment of cognitive capacities to the
    new infant frees the baby of dependence on
    environmental specifically cultural and
    parental influences his intellectual growth is
    safe regardless of variations in his surrounding
    context. Whether or not western culture is the
    epitome of historical evolution, whether or not
    American child-rearing patterns are optimal, the
    child contains shielded knowledge that will exist
    independently of his nation or handling

7
AvoidingThe full child cont.
  • Part of the strength of a developmental
    psychology that stresses what the infants tissue
    gives to his future lies in the freedom from
    responsibility that it affords parents. Nor does
    the assignment of cognitive richness to the
    infant escape political implications the new
    baby of current research is conservative,
    protected from the vagaries of an unpredictable
    environment, holding the truths steady in the
    winds of cultural change The baby has become the
    guardian of stability in an uncertain life. (my
    emphasis)

8
So (discipline,) theory and method are integrally
linked, and cover the gaps in each
  • The full infant
  • may have been constructed to save us from the
    disorder of no longer having shared conceptual
    models, or even assured research procedures.
    (Kessen, 1993 415)
  • source Kessen (1993) Avoiding the emptiness
    the full child, Theory Psychology, 3, 4
    415-427.

9
Obvious point here
  • What model of the social inhabits the Big
    society?
  • (And what/how do disciplines contribute to and
    bolster this?)
  • The Big society is an empty society, without
    complex large institutions (and cities), composed
    of active but flexible subjects in small,
    friendly, local associations
  • Like his literary predecessors, Blond, when he
    thinks of England, sees mainly its
    church-spire-haunted countryside (p5 of 7, of
    Raban, J. 2010. Camerons crank review of Red
    Tory, London Review of Books, 32, 8
    www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n08.jonathan-raban/camerons-cran
    k/print)

10
From new labour to con-dems
  • New labour pulled out our teeth and filled them
    with gold (childrens NGO)
  • now that the gold has gone, all that is left is
  • a void?

11
Seductions for childhood researchers.
  • Identifies the right problems
  • Eg Participation as active citizenship in the UK,
    usually limited to
  • having a say, consultation, inclusion (see
    Percy-Smith, 2010 108)
  • Giving a voice to young people to shape an
    intervention programme to help young people out
    of disadvantage is likely to have less impact in
    addressing that disadvantage and improving young
    peoples lifechances than direct work which
    widens opportunities and choices for young people
    and that helps young people to realise and
    develop their interests and abilities to engage
    with the world (p112)
  • Dilemma the focus on political participation
    privileges existing structures (and so runs the
    risk overstating their influence or,
    alternatively, their malleability?) and ignores
    the influence of many informal organisations and
    processes
  • Need to shift the focus from LA decision-making a
    service development to community spaces
  • But suspiciously compatible with Big Society
    discourses of Social Entrepreneurship
  • Percy-Smith, B. (2010) Councils, consultations
    and community rethinking the spaces for children
    and young peoples participation, Childrens
    Geographies, 8, 2 107-122.

12
2 Association
  • Perec, G. (1969/2005) A Void
  • (trans. G. Adair) Harmondsworth Penguin
  • Some writings semi autobiographical (especially
    W or The Memory of Childhood), but subject to.
  • authors license to deceive (Sturrock,
    1999,pxiii), and in particular a willed
    objectivity commitment to the infra-ordinary
    (pxiv)
  • (shallow) marxism but ..unregenerate
    materialism (pxv)

13
  • Materialists of language are distinctive for
    taking full advantage of the fact that languages
    constituents, words, are so many objects existing
    materially All materialists do is to exploit the
    possibilities inherent in words as things, or
    signifiers, rather than what most of us do most
    of the time, which is to overlook the materiality
    or thingness of words and pass directly onto
    their meaning, or signified. (Sturrock, J. 1999.
    Introduction pxv to Perecs Species of Spaces
    and Other Pieces)

14
Cross/Interdisciplinary relations
  • Perec was a writer waiting, you might say, for
    Structuralism to happen. (Sturrock 1999 p.xv)
  • In 1967 he was co-opted (ibid.) by Ou-Li-Po
    (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle /Workshop for
    Potential Literature)
  • Collaboration between writers and mathematicians
    lipograms and palindromes were a test for Perec
    and a solace demonstrations of verbal expertise
    freed from the need to be expressive (pxvi) (my
    emphasis)
  • (Perec maintained his paid position as a
    full-time archivist in a science laboratory until
    4 years before his death)
  • Sturrock, J. (1999) Editor and Translators
    Introduction to G. Perec. Species of Spaces and
    Other Pieces. Harmondsworth Penguin.

15
does it help us to try to think beyond being
expressive???
  • In the context of the over-expressiveness of
    childhood?
  • Routinely accused of being too fluffy or,
    conversely, too worthy for its own good, the
    study of the child entails its own superfluity.
    (Caselli, 2011 122)
  • If the child, as a cultural notion, is still in
    the position in which the woman was before the
    impact of feminist theory in the 1960s and
    70s.what remains to be fully accounted for is
    the peculiar way in which the self stubbornly
    and familiarly stares back every time we
    constitute the child into an object of study.
  • (Caselli, 2011 129)
  • Caselli, D. (2011) Eerie changelings, New
    Formations, 74 122-129.

16
Visual metaphors of disappearance
  • Lost generations vs. invisible children

17
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20
vs. Invisible Children Cf phenomenon of
Kony2012 (approx 100 million viewers to date)
  • http//www.youtube.com/watch?vY4MnpzG5Sqc

21
Back (again) to disciplines
  • And the role accorded/assumed by specific
    disciplines

22
Barthes (1986 71) The Rustle of Language
  • Interdisciplinary work. So much discussed these
    days, is not about confronting already
    constituted disciplines (none if which, in fact,
    is willing to let itself go). To do something
    interdisciplinary its not enough to choose a
    subject (a theme) and gather around it two or
    three sciences. Interdisciplinarity consists in
    creating a new object that belongs to no one.
    (my emphasis)

23
Questions of
  • Ownership
  • Responsibility
  • (memories of institutional problems of womens
    studiesbelonging nowhere, and no one has
    commitment/obligation to support it)

24
Disciplinary-specific ethical challenges?
  • Arising through public/policy appeals to
    particular disciplinary knowledges
  • Alongside the changing relationship to the state
    Free schools, new illusion of individual
    freedoms/autonomies under neoliberalism -
    Threatening to return more power/authority to the
    already privileged upper middle classes

25
Dilemmas
  • Colonialist appropriation
  • Secessionist disavowal
  • Fragmentation/proliferation or collaboration?
  • How to usefully acknowledge and draw upon
    tensions and differences?

26
An example
  • From Beazeley et als (2009) otherwise fantastic
    article
  • Within childhood, age differences probably
    outweigh gender, ethnicity, religion and other
    discriminator factors working with the youngest
    children requires special skills and
    sensitivities, which one can get away with not
    having for children between 10 and 17 years
    (p368)
  • Beazeley, H., S. Bessell, Ennew, J. And Waterson,
    R. (2009) The right to be properly researched
    research with children in a messy, real world,
    Childrens Geographies, 7, 4 365-378.

27
Psychologys responsibilities/opportunities.
  • Resisting psychologisation in relation to
  • Parent-blaming
  • Childrens rights
  • worklessness
  • e.g. 7 March 2012 ESRC briefing on 'education
    and social mobility'
  • "The adverse attitudes to education of
    disadvantaged mothers are one of the most
    important factors associated with the lower
    educational attainment of their children...
    (source ESRC Social Mobility briefings series. 
    http//www.esrc.ac.uk/publications/evidence-briefi
    ngs/index.aspx page 2)

28
Thorne (2007) on the work of crafting
interdisciplinarity whose labour?
  • I regret the continuing wall of silence between
    the new social studies of childhood and the
    field of child development because I believe that
    the complex articulation of different types of
    temporality historical, generational,
    chronological, phenomenological, developmental,
    biological should be central to the study of
    children and childhoods. Questions about
    individual growth and the shifting constitution
    of persons over time, which are central to the
    study of human development, have the potential to
    enrich the anthropology, sociology, geography and
    history of childhood. But this will only happen
    if approaches to human development are more fully
    historicised, informed by meaningful attention to
    culture and social structure, and enriched by
    close attention to the ways in which children
    negotiate the process of growing older and
    participate in a range of social institutions. It
    will take extensive mutual dialogue to transcend
    this particular wall of silence. Its a tall
    order, methodologically and conceptually, but
    surely no one believes that understanding the
    whole of childrens lives will be a smooth and
    easy task. (Thorne, 2007 150)
  • Thorne, B. (2007) Editorial crafting the
    interdisciplinary field of childhood studies,
    Childhood, 14 147-152.

29
Childhood as critical social science? Alanen
(2011)
  • Critical Childhood Studies implies being critical
    not only of our own research practices and social
    arrangements that we study in the real world of
    children and childhood. Thus, making explicit the
    normative foundations of childhood research
    requires that we also address a number of
    normalised issues concerning the practices and
    arrangements out there, and specify in what
    particular respects they are problematic. It also
    asks us to specify what constitutes a good, or at
    least a better life for children and for human
    beings in general. This means to endorse a
    normative turn also in Childhood Studies. To do
    so is in line also with the very
    interdisciplinary nature of Childhood Studies as
    it would engage childhood researchers in
    discussions on issues that need to be explored
    and developed in a multi- and interdisciplinary
    frame, with colleagues in a range of other
    disciplines. (Alanen, 2011 150)
  • Alanen, Leena (2010) Critical Childhood
    Studies?, Childhood, 18, 2 147-150.

30
  • To fail to take into account childrens own
    self-perceptions when describing their lives is
    to violate their dignity (Beazley et al., 2009)
    (p374)
  • But
  • current enthusiasm for practical,
    policy-relevant social research on children is
    closely connected to adult anxieties about young
    people how to improve them, make them more
    employable, more productive and healthier how to
    encourage and regulate their moral conduct and to
    participate in democratic politics. That is, it
    is concerned with the production of ideal future
    citizens (Rose, 1999) (Gallagher Gallagher
    2009 503-4)

31
Making do, rather than false promises
  • methodological immaturity (Gallacher
    Gallagher, 2009)
  • participatory methods are no less problematic,
    or ethically ambiguous, than any other research
    method Methodological immaturity privileges
    open-ended process over predefined technique. It
    does not aim to discover or uncover a
    pre-existing world, offering instead
    experimentation, innovation and making do.
    While participation may seem laudable, it does
    not and cannot deliver all that it promises
    perhaps simply because in the face of the
    unpredictability of the social world, it tries to
    offer some kind of guarantee. (p513)

32
Participation as postdisciplinary or towards a
timid disciplinarianism?
  • in its original and most profound sense,
    participatory research is not a methodological
    shift but an epistemological and ontological one,
    about who asks and answers research questions.
    This is a different take on postdisciplinarity..
    or involves a timid disciplinarianism stepping
    back, decentring ourselves as knowledge
    producers, listening a bit more, telling a bit
    less, opening up to the many other sites of
    knowledge production. (Pain, 2010224)
  • Pain, R. (2010) Ways beyond disciplinarity,
    Childrens Geographies, 8, 2 223-5
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